Talk:Crank (person)

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Notice: Asmodeus and DrL are banned from editing this article.
The users specified have been indefinitely banned by the Arbitration committee from editing this article. The users are not prevented from discussing or proposing changes on this talk page.

Posted by Srikeit 17:22, 8 December 2006 (UTC) for the Arbitration committee. See Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/ScienceApologist.

  1. Apr 2004 – May 2006

German word for this?[edit]

This concept is exactly what I was looking for. Is there a German translation for it? Gibt's auch ein deutsches Wort dafuer? RedNifre 16:39, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

YOu may use

er ist... (he is...)
 ...besessen     / has a demon (can be used in positive and negative meaning)
 ...vernarrt     / is more involved then intense, and slightly appealing to a foolish aspect of the subject
 ...verdreht     / just a bit crazy, but no association of aggressivity in the described person intended
 ...verwirrt     / more with the context of mental sickness
 ...durchgedreht / more the final disaster of the previous in the focus

but they all don't suffice to express the combined idea behind "crank", which, in the math-context, also involves a portion of aggressive communication, the clear association of illness, and complete absurdity of the idea, of which that person is obsessed.

No - sorry; no german noun of this type is known to me. But let's see - perhaps in the more rural area they have a sound word for this...

Gottfried Helms

How about "Spinner", "Sonderling", "Exzentriker", "Querulant"? --Olaf g (talk) 13:15, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Structure of Scientific Revolutions?[edit]

"It would be more correct to say that mathematicians have gradually become aware of subtle issues which had previously been overlooked. That is, previous mathematical knowledge has been enriched, not overthrown, by such discoveries as non-Euclidean geometry or Gödel's incompleteness theorems."

"Enriched" sounds like an euphemism to protect the concept of linear scientific progress. Some consideration of modern scientific theory, e.g. Thomas Kuhn could help to improve this article.--Olaf g (talk) 13:15, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

The paper by Kruger and Dunning[edit]

This is one of the few papers in psychiatry which directly bears upon the phenomenon of crankery. It is often badly misunderstood (especially by cranks, not surprisingly!), but also often mentioned in discussions e.g. on UseNet, so it should be discussed accurately and clearly in a new section of this article.

When I get a chance I'll add some more references to printed works on cranks as a phenomenon in social psychiatry. ---CH 19:25, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

Much of the article is W:OR and hard to document. Your suggestion seems like a promising direction.--CSTAR 21:22, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, CSTAR! I am boldy moving part of the old version here. I will discuss that here a bit later. ---CH 00:43, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Well, I set out with the ambition of distinguishing between crank-POV pushing at the WP and more sophisticated attempts to manipulate this forum and other media fora to pursue political ends (e.g. intelligent design), but perhaps fortunately aborted this. I wound up removing the long list of specific topics, which seems to be superseded by the lists given in the See also section. I kept most of the etymology. Pretty much everything else is entirely new. ---CH 03:08, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

I never did find the time to describe the results of my informal study (early 2006) of the manipulation of the Wikipedia to promote cranky theories or (even more disturbing) political agendas. My study examined physics related articles. I expected to find that most persons who maintain cranky websites or are frequent crank posters to the InterNet are also active at the Wikipedia. To my surprise and relief, this does not appear to be the case. Nonetheless, I did uncover several specific cases of unambiguous attempts by specific individuals to use anon IPs or sockpuppets to promote their cranky theory as respectable. However, in most cases these users either quickly disappeared or have been banned. Nonetheless, the potential for abuse is clear, so I urge everyone concerned with maintaining the Wikipedia as a reliable source of information to remain alert to possible attempts to distort our ambitious attempt to accurately and comprehensively represent all fields of knowledge. I cannot but expect that as Wikipedia continues its ascent toward the most widely used website in the world, this kind of abuse will become more common, more serious, and very possibly more sophisticated.---CH 03:36, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Well, I spoke too soon... while I was editing this, Ibison (talk · contribs) was writing a completely new version of Polarizable vacuum; see Talk:Polarizable vacuum for evidence of a serious conflict of interest there. See also Talk:Hutchison effect, Talk:Hydrino theory, Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Bios_theory or other recent apparent conflicts of interest. (This is an incomplete list!) An example of an older problem is User:Smarandache fan.---CH 09:28, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

The contribs of User:Ibison may represent more a newbie who hadn't thought about how his edits might appear, but some of the other cases I have in mind were more sinister. ---CH 00:27, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

Re my example of how continental drift went from cranky to mainstream, nowadays a website that mainstains that continental drift is fantasty would be considered cranky. And yes, there is at least one such site! Check it out This is funny, but I do NOT advocate adding this link. (We don't want to encourage reduplication of the List of Alternative Theories). ---CH 05:58, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

Red links[edit]

Do we really need Wikibiographies of every person mentioned in passing in the Wikipedia? I think not.

I think we should consider the possiblity that we might not want to encourage the creation of an article on persons of questionable notability. Note that I don't know how notable Dunning and/or Kroger really are in psychology, so User:Robinh, if you have reason to think either of them is truly notable as individuals, by all means restore the red links. Here I want to express a general concern about a profusion of red links, so please bear with me for a moment.

It seems to me that inviting the creation of articles on obscure persons virtually ensures that the only person willing to write such an article will be the subject himself, so that this is tantamount to encouraging endless wikibiocruft. Just think of much more difficult it would be to keep the WP reasonably fair and unbiased if everyone on the planet were tacitly or explicitly encouraged to create their own wikibiography! That might be an amusing project, actually, but Wikipedia is not the place for it.

In other words, I feel that this kind of possibly unthinking wikification actually runs contrary to our hard work in trying to keep the Wikipedia free of autobiocruft and other self-promoting edits.---CH 00:14, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Hello CH. Well, I think that Dunning and Kruger are notable. Their paper is very well-known in the field. Although having said that, I can't find much in the way of biography on the net. My general feeling is that any author of a paper in any top journal (say Nature or Science for a start) should have a page by default and the author of any notable paper should have one too. Comments? Best wishes Robinh 07:10, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Hi, Robin, my gosh, do you know how many people have published papers in Nature, Science, or claim to have published "notable" papers? I don't either, but I think you should find out the number before you propose such a policy. Trying to think of a worse proposal... uuhm... I propose that all registered user pages and all history papes should be immediately deleted and henceforth only anonymous unsignable edits allowed. And Wikipedia should be accessible only to paying subscribers. And personal information should be provided to the government of China, for a small fee. OK, that would be a worse proposal. ---CH 09:43, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Hi again. Sorry, but I think you're wrong. Wikipedia is not paper; there are 1.1 million entries currently, and adding a dozen or so more pages each week for top scientists won't break the RAM bank. Now, perhaps you don't regard being published in Nature as a notable thing; but for me and many many people like me it would be a crowning acheivement of a career. I do quite like your worse proposals, and one or two of them did raise a wan smile; but really, this policy wouldn't hurt. best, Robinh 11:32, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Am I missing something? Are you not proposing that everyone whose name has ever appeared as author of a "notable" paper (how do you define that, anyway) should have a wikibiography? Retroactively?! I repeat: do you know how many articles this would amount to? How could we even try to ensure reliability? Are you proposing to add wikibios of all authors of papers appearing in each new issue of Nature?

Let's move this discussion someplace since it is getting OT. How about your user talk page? ---CH 11:54, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

FWIW, My roommate had a paper published in Nature. He's an interesting enough character, but IMO he's definitely not notable enough to have an article. Or put it this way: if he gets one, then so do I. And Hillman too. -lethe talk + 12:08, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

I can also think of persons who have published a paper or two in Science or Nature whom I would not consider sufficiently notable to warrant a wikibio; in fact, I feel that the vast majority of authors of papers appearing in these journals fall into this category. (One need only think of the occasional paper from something like the LIGO consortium with a list of authors taking up an entire page, for example, to see my point.)

However, User:Robinh has explained on my user talk page that what he really had in mind is this: when a new issue of Nature comes out, he sometimes checks the authors to see whether they see "notable" (on the basis of Google hits or whatever, hopefully screening for the fact that some scientists are artful self-promoters) and if so, whether they have wikibios, adding a stub if he finds a "notable" scientist who does not yet have a wikibio. Needless to say, this seems much more reasonable than promoting a policy of creating wikibios of everyone who has ever published a "notable research paper" with a very broad if vague definition of "notable". OK, I think we've said enough about this and I'd like to close this discussion, if everyone else agrees that this kerfluffle concerned a misunderstanding on my part about what Robin had in mind. ---CH 22:57, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Deleted section?[edit]

Can we at least discuss this? My rewrite was in good faith and I did think about what to say and how, and I certainly recognized in advance that I was venturing onto slippery territory. While I agree with WP:SELF as a general guideline, I think this might be one case in which we should at least consider an exception. I think it is important for the WP community to recognize that currently WP is wide open to manipulation of information for various purposes. As I noted, while WP functions as both a social club and an information resource, I feel that the primary goal of WP is to provide an encyclopedia and therefore when push comes to shove, we should decide issues by falling back upon the question: which course of action best serves readers who come here seeking reliable information about a topic of interest to them?

Would the readers who deleted the section care to explain their reasoning at greater length? TIA.

Robin, thanks for supporting me (?) on this point ---although we obviously strongly disagree about notability criteria for wikibios! ---CH 09:43, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Hi. WP:SELF says "Wikipedia can, of course, write about Wikipedia, but context is important". I think that makes it pretty clear that the deleted paragraph should stand. Robinh 12:29, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
The argument in WP:SELF is that it should be possible for an article to be distributed in an entirely different context, say, a free but expert-verified print encyclopedia, and still make sense. Somebody who goes to this article presumably want to read about cranks, not particular problems caused by them in a particular on-line encyclopedia. This is not a context in which a self-reference is warranted. An article about cranks written for any other medium would not mention Wikipedia, and therefore the Wikipedia article should not, either. Henning Makholm 16:07, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
That last criterion for self-reference (about a page of topic X in any other medium not mentioning Wiki) is a good one, I think. But my feeling is that that is a POV issue, better addressed by copyediting than block deleting. Looking again at the paragraph you deleted, it would come under the general heading of self-reference. BUT anyone interested in cranks would quite possibly be interested in how cranks interact with a publically-editable web resource such as wikipedia. I am fascinated by the question of how Gene Ray, for example, views wikipedia. Is he outraged by it? what drives him to edit the time cube page again and again? Perhaps the paragraph has a place on wikipedia, but I'd suggest that many people who are interested in cranks would want to know how they behave here in wikiland; so the paragraph is relevant on crank (person).
None of this is to say that the paragraph couldn't use some editing, tho'. Best wishes, Robinh 21:39, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Hi, Henning, thanks for explaining. However, I question your claim that "An article about cranks written for any other medium would not mention Wikipedia". If we allow "articles" about WP which mention concerns about manipulation of information by cranks, and if we include blog posts as "articles", then examples include:

  1. this post by Zak Mucha in a blog run by Andrew Vachss (I don't know anything about them, this was just the first example Google found)
  2. this post by MarkCC in a blog run by Mark Chu-Carroll (ditto)

If we include pages on personal websites, examples include:

  1. this page on a website run by Bertrand Meyer (again, I have no idea who he is, this is just the first example Google gave me).

If we include newsitems in type websites, examples include:

  1. this newsitem bylined Eric Bangeman at
  2. this op-ed piece by Larry Sanger from

I think it is clear from these examples (just from the first three search pages Google gave me!) that many observers are worried about the huge potential for abuse of the Wikipedia by slanting information presented here to suit some personal, political, or social agenda. ---CH 23:22, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

What you cite are not texts that attempt to provide general information about cranks; they are specifically texts whose primary topic is Wikipedia. They do not contradict my claim, simply because they are not articles about cranks in the first place. Henning Makholm 23:30, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Why did I cite articles about WP which mention conerns about manipulation of WP by cranks, rather than articles about cranks which mention WP? Because the former is what the first 3 pages of my Google search yielded up. With more effort, no doubt I could find examples of the latter (at least one being a page I wrote myself, heh!). I think you are still missing my point, Henning. Somehow we need to try to ensure that the average WP user is at least aware of the issue of possible manipulation of information and can easily find resources to see explicit examples of how information can be manipulated here, etc. I am suggesting that the deleted section (perhaps after rewriting) could constitute a modest first step toward that goal. Please note that I am not claiming that your arguments are utterly without merit; rather, I am suggesting that broader considerations may suggest that it is in the best interests of our readers to make an exception in this and similar cases regarding WP:SELF. I think I have made it clear that this will require some experimentation until it becomes more clear what approaches work best to ensure that our readership knows that they need to "read defensively" here. ---CH 00:08, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

Hmmm... the original deletion was by a user who hasn't spoken up here. Henning, I think you are outvoted, so I reverted the deletion. I'd like to move this discussion on to the discussing how that section should be phrased, since as I have made clear, I think we are feeling our way here in a tricky area and I agree that it is important how we choose our words in this section. ---CH 00:21, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

I deleted a paragraph elaborating on the nature of the concerns expressed by myself and Robinh, since I now think this might have been unneccessary. I also added some internal links to some WP articles about WP which seem relevant to this section in the "See also" section. Henning, I hope you find the new section acceptable. ---CH 00:44, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

No, I still think that the section is an inappropriate self-reference. The goal of making people understand that Wikipedia is an uncertain source of information is, in and of it self, laudable, but it misses the point completely to attempt to say it in this particular article. The set of people who need to be warned about manipulated information does not correlate at all with the set of people who want to read about cranks. If anything the correlation should be negative. This article is for the second set of people, not for the first. I am not against saying this, but the Crank (person) article is not the right place to say it in. Those who come here do not in general need the warning, and those who need the warning don't come here anyway. Henning Makholm 01:13, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

Well, again I don't agree with your assumption about why people might come to this article or what they might or might not have conciously recognized regarding information manipulation at WP. Let's wait a bit and see what others have to say. ---CH 02:17, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

After reading through the above conversation and the paragraph under dispute as it stands in this diff which is Robinh's revert of Bob A, I have to say I agree with Henning, but I do think there is a solution. We already have a section on cranks and the internet, but this section makes no mention of the phenomenon that the internet has empowered the current generation of cranks, allowing them them to publish and reach audiences on a scale only dreamed of by our parents' cranks. I've been hanging about on science and math related corners of the internet for a bunch of years now, and I've noticed that every usenet group, message board, mail list, has them. The regular science contributors view them as an assault on science and community and act as defenders of the orthodoxy, and the cranks in turn regard the orthodoxers as censors and cabalists and unable to "think outside the box", having been brainwashed by the academic herd mentality.
So this phenomenon, that cranks use the internet to promulagate their theories, which are viewed as assaults by mainstreamers, is pretty common and should be easy to verify. Wikipedia is just another example of this, and can easily be mentioned as a notable example. In this larger context, that example is a good one no matter what medium this article finds itself in, and then WP:SELF isn't violated. What do you think of that solution?
As for a section on how cranks make Wikipedia unreliable, I do think that that belongs in the Wikipedia article (or criticisms of Wikipedia), not here. It's not really about cranks, is it? Though we could add the section there and just put a short sentence with link here.
Finally, I agree with Robinh that a person interested in cranks might be interested to hear how the crank edits his own article (it relates to that paper about estimation of one's own ability). But I'm not sure if we can mention that sort of thing without violating WP:NOR. -lethe talk + 02:41, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

i have some experience with "cranks" in online forums and it seems to me baldly practical to identify or describe crank behavior wherever it occurs, and in fact to migrate the wikipedia "pseudoscience" biography and topic lists into those wikipedia articles as a disclaimer at the top of every page that states the article is on a "crank" or "pseudoscience" watchlist and is frequently edited with tendentious purpose by persons with a "crank" POV. that statement should specifically not be buried in the discussion section, as the "crank" or "pseudoscience" diagnosis represents an editorial *conclusion* and not an editorial discussion. it also seems to me essential intellectual hygiene for wikipedia to acknowledge that it is frequently the butt of mischief or attacks by a variety of unproductive, hostile or deceptive edits, and to state that fact clearly in any section that is even remotely connected with either the generic target of those attacks (wikipedia, other online forums, blogs, newspapers, etc.) or the authors of those attacks (cranks, creationists, obama birthers, etc.).

the basic issue here is a confusion between democracy, power and knowledge. knowledge is not arrived at by any democratic method, and exposing knowledge to democratic process is fatal to it. democracy is the standard of equal voice or equal weight in a collective decision or adjudication. when this is applied to knowledge, we essentially vote on newton's law or the theory of relativity or the evolutionary theory. knowledge requires that votes be weighted by expertise and by impartiality, and a crank is someone who subjectively weights their vote so that, in a democratic framework, it demands greater participation, or someone who challenges knowledge for religious, political or personal motives. therefore all edits should be weighted by knowledge domain expertise only. this raises the issue of power, or the coercive uses of knowledge by a self designated elite, but the solution to that problem is again not a democratic process but, in that case, an editorial one, "editorial" being an elective or promotional role based on skill and not on enthusiasm, and requiring both an expertise in the specific publication process at issue and an understanding of how the knowledge domain relates to the audience and to society as a whole.

it's really the crank effect on the editorial role, and not on the knowledge per se, that is worth focusing on, both as a topic area and as an internal cultural matter in wikipedia. the primary effect of "crank" postings is simply to wear out the many editors, moderators, contributors, and other collaborators through the task of policing rather than diffusing and expanding the knowledge base. to the extent that "cranks" have an underlying political or religious motive, then this wearout can be an implicit goal of their individual attacks. in short, "cranks" have not only a psychology but a sociology, and that needs to be more widely acknowledged and addressed as an explicit problem -- the damage done to knowledge by attacks on "power". it specifically indicates that "crank" issues should not be omitted from a discussion simply because "people who come here are unlikely to be interested in it," and it implies that the henning's position is an implicit defense of "crank behavior", as it proposes limiting in any way the discussion of "crank" activity. it does not matter what people are interested in; what matters is the connection between content and knowledge -- what is germane to the topic -- and i argue both for an explicit warning any time the editorial activity or knowledge domain is distorted by the burden of "crank behavior", and for including wikipedia in the discussion of "crank behavior". you can't talk about serial murders, and serial murderers, as two distinct and unrelated topics. Macevoy (talk) 15:58, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Looks like User:Bob A took it upon himself to again delete the section w/out discussion of his reasoning here, but it sounds like User:Lethe has a reasonable compromise. Lethe, can you use the previous version to make the change you suggested? Thanks ---CH 03:27, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

That was kind of brusque. Not even a comment to say "you're all wrong", just a flippant remark that it's a joke and deletion. Well, anyway, yeah, I'll get started on a draft of how I think it should look. -lethe talk + 03:33, 25 May 2006 (UTC)
Lethe's compromise suggestion sounds good. Let the record state that I'm not impressed by the brusqueness of Bob A's edit summary either. Henning Makholm 20:21, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

my new internet section[edit]

As per your request, I have rewritten the section to conform to WP:SELF. This was not particularly hard; it's easy to report on Wikipedia in the same way we report on other internet phenomena, and couched in a larger discussion of cranks and how they use the internet, it seems perfectly natural. So while my new text may be OK with self-reference, I'm not sure it sits as well with WP:NOR. Comments welcome. -lethe talk + 01:43, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

== Cranks and the Internet ==

The increase in popularity of the Internet in recent years has provided cranks several new avenues to promulgate their theories. Notably in some cases internet venues have changed their structure in response to the presence of cranks.

The ease of publication via websites allows any theory to be published completely unfettered by the editorial process concomitant with refereed academic journals. Webhosting is easily available, and potential readership is very high.

There are also many fora for discussion on the internet, such as usenet, mailing lists, and web message boards. Many of these venues are devoted to specialized topics, which are used by experts to discuss developments in their field, students to ask for help in their studies, and people with new theories to get feedback from experts.

Interactions between trained professionals and cranks are seldom productive; the crank is usually unwavering in his conviction of the correctness of his theory, while the professional is unwilling or unable to make constructive criticism of a theory that is not well-formulated according to academic standards, though there are those who view it as their academic duty to rebut every cranky theory lest an untrained reader mistake it for accepted research. Moreover, some cranks adopt adversarial stances, challenging others to disprove his theory or answering the questions of students seeking help from the basis of the cranky theory, behaviors which are viewed disfavorably. For this reason, expert contributors often view discussions about the theories of cranks as at best detrimental to the health of the online community, driving down the signal-to-noise ratio. For their part, cranks often accuse professionals of censorship or inability to think in new directions, and claim that this is indicative of the failings of modern academia. The tension between experts and cranks can lead to a fork in the community (e.g. sci.physics.research) and stricter editorial policy.

This paragraph is based mostly on my own personal observations and interactions with cranks. I assume this would need some references, though I'm not sure what sort of references are appropriate (are usenet/message board moderator postings valid sources?) or where to find them. -lethe talk + 01:43, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Occupying a somewhat intermediate position between the single-author relatively static publication model of the website and the dynamic nature of online discussion groups is that of the wiki, a relatively new arrival in internet technology. The most notable example of a wiki is probably Wikipedia, a wiki devoted to the creation of a free (as in speech) encyclopedia. Because Wikipedia is viewed by some as a useful source of scientific information, cranks may view the presence of their theory in the encyclopedia as a valuable means to bypass the normal academic peer review process and gain the appearance of authority for their theories. Though it is a violation of Wikipedia's editorial policies, the addition of crank theories is a continuing problem for the site which allows anyone to edit and author any material, and this has been one of the contributions to the opinion among its critics that Wikipedia's information cannot be ever be assumed to be reliable. See Criticisms of Wikipedia for more information.

Chris, this link should point to a particular subsection of that article which contains criticisms of wikipedia based specifically on its containment of crackpottery. -lethe talk + 01:43, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Several cranks have become well-known (as far as these things go) through internet postings or websites promoting particular cranky beliefs. Indeed, certain cranks have become internet legends through the assiduous promotion of their bizarre beliefs. It seems safe to say that at present, a student of mathematics in the English-speaking world is almost as likely to be familiar with the names of Archimedes Plutonium and James S. Harris as the names of Leonhard Euler and Carl Friedrich Gauss! Unlike Gauss and Euler, it seems likely that the former individuals will be quickly forgotten (not without relief) after their physical demise, as seems to have happened with the formerly ubiquitous Alexander Abian (who died in July 1999).

Where is Time Cube?-lethe talk + 01:43, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

As the presence of cranks has become commonplace in technical corners of the internet, the internet also hosts several arenas for documenting or responding to and defending against the onslaught of cranky science. There are a number of websites devoted to listing cranky websites. By far the most ambitious appears to be Crank dot net, which is maintained by Erik Max Francis. Crankdot lists hundreds of websites divided into dozens of overlapping subject areas. Each item is designated as either cranky or anticrank; the vast majority of the websites listed are cranky, however. An even more extensive database is maintained by some members of WikiProject Pseudoscience. It is estimated that there are thousands of websites promoting "new energy schemes" alone. There are also newsgroups which are nominally devoted to discussing (alt.usenet.kooks) or poking fun (alt.kibology) at cranks.

In the end, the section is pretty long. It merges the previous two sections "Internet cranks" and "Cranks and Wikipedia". The outline is like this:

  • cranks with websites
  • cranks on discussion fora
  • cranks on wikipedia
  • famous cranks
  • internet sites for crank response.

I think all of these bullet points are necessary things to mention in any discussion of cranks on the internet, though perhaps some fat can be trimmed? -lethe talk + 01:43, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

First comment: do you propose to add this new section to this article, to Criticism of Wikipedia, or to some other article? (Weren't you arguing before that discussion of this topic should be moved to another article? If so, I was persuaded this probably would be a good idea.) ---CH 17:38, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

I propose to add this section to this article, under the header "Cranks and the Internet", replacing the existing section, which this supersedes. When I mentioned moving stuff to Criticisms of Wikipedia, I was referring to the bulk of your section "Cranks and Wikipedia". I have a paragraph for that (which turned out longer than I had originally envisioned), but detailed discussion about why Wikipedia is unreliable due to cranks could go there, while this article mentions how cranks use Wikipedia without focusing on what this means to Wikipedia. You listed some links above with sources criticizing Wikipedia for this, I think those could go to the main Criticisms article. -lethe talk + 18:00, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Second comment: this is your proposed new section with your own comments tabbed and bolded, right? Sorry, for technological reasons I am a bit confused here. Maybe we should adopt a convention of using a distinctive typeface for quoting a proposed new section?

Yeah, I just inserted some comments, tabbed and italicized, just to sort of open up the discussion of this proposed addition, which I expected some of us not to like. -lethe talk + 18:00, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Third comment: Time cube: I wanted to avoid listing specific cranks as far as possible, especially living persons. Rather than adding another "classic crank", maybe it would be best to remove the examples already offered? ---CH 17:44, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

The examples paragraph is not mine, I took it from previous reversions, but what is the argument for its non-inclusion? Is it potential accusations of libel? -lethe talk + 18:00, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

I'm lost. "The examples paragraph"? ---CH 19:15, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

That's the paragraph which mentions Archimedes Plutonium, James Harris, and Alexander Abian. -lethe talk + 19:22, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Oh, I see. No, the concern was this: why ask for an edit war with one or more living persons if there is no pressing need to label any living person as an example of a living crank? Also for reasons of keeping the length of the article under control, I think it would be wise to send anyone who wants a "list of persons who have been called cranks" off to write such a list. ---CH 19:25, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, and I guess I don't really care whether or not we mention examples. I note for comparison that the article racism doesn't have a list of racists, though it does have a list of racist organizations. -lethe talk + 19:35, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Well I think most people realize it is just cruel. Sure to you I may be some creature you wish to call a "crank" but I am a human being, whether others accept it or not, and to try to legitimize slurs against me in an encyclopedia article as if it were the most casual thing in the world is to demean the Wikipedia and the people who work so hard on it in good faith.

After all, how could that NOT hurt my feelings?

The function of the Wikipedia is to promote knowledge--not hostile views against individual people.

JSH 14:36, 29 July 2006 (UTC)


Could we unbulletize the introduction? Would it be possible to support the definition given in the intro by some published dictionary? Or at least give footnotes including various dictionary definitions.--CSTAR 06:07, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Er, in LaTeX terminology, don't you mean the enumeration using numbers, not an itemization using bullets? Did you not notice that 1,2 structure is continued throughout the article? If you altered the 1,2 definition the next section wouldn't make much sense.
As for "various dictionary definitions", do you mean, the specific usage of "crank" discussed in the article? Or crank as in something you turn and all that? ---CH 15:08, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Re: Enumeration. Yes, that's what I meant. Re: Rest of article. No I didn't notice. But is this really a reason not to change it? Re: "various dictionary definitions". I'm sure the non-turning kind is discussed someplace in the literature (the dictionaries I've seen define crank basically as an eccentric person or someone with weird ideas). How to get from there to the current definition isn't clear. I was hoping you would pull out a defn from one of the references you mentioned above. --CSTAR 16:07, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

CSTAR, I repeat: precisely what specific competing definitions did you have in mind? If you do not have any specific competing definitions in mind, what is your point?---CH 17:29, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
I am discussing the term "crank" as an individual with eccentric beliefs only. I don't care about crankshafts etc.
Now the dictionary definition for crank in the "eccentric individual" sense, is
An eccentric person, one who is unduly zealous
This is from The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd edition, although other defns from other dictionaries that I have checked are similar.
Now I have these 2 questions:
  1. What is the justification for going from the above dictionary definition(s) to the definition given in the article?
  2. What is the justification for the conclusion given in the intro. (e.g. "arguing with the crank is useless,..")
Are these points obvious consequences of the dictionary definition? I'm willing to accept that response as an answer, but at least it should have some discussion here to avoid the potential claim that the article is original research. Ideally one of the papers on cranks could justify these points. --CSTAR 18:02, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Do you really prefer the American Heritage College Dictionary definition? Bearing in mind the context?

As for documentation, in general I would entirely agree that citing reputable sources and following mainstream sources is appropriate, but at present it seems there is a dearth of "papers" (your word) specifically on cranks. The paper I cite is not on cranks but many internet discussions have applied their findings to cranks.

CSTAR, I feel that my version was a huge improvement over the previous version. I don't understand why you think the AHCD definition is so terribly important, but if you want to write your own version I guess you can do that. Please don't rewrite incompletely though. That is, before making major changes to the very beginning, please read the next few sections and be sure you understand what you need to change there if you change the very beginning. ---CH 19:21, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

I agree it's an improvement; I never suggested otherwise. Moreover, I don't have any intention of rewriting what you wrote. My main point was that the issue of sources is also important and we may have to deal with it at some point--CSTAR 19:36, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

OK, got it. Let's both keep an eye out for new books or research papers containing some kind of scholarly discussion of the crank phenomenon (e.g. psychology, sociology, neurology of incompetence). ---CH 21:33, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Self reference?[edit]

User:Fubar Obfusco removed the "See also" links to "Wikipedia as an information resource", apparently citing WP:SELF. However, this policy states at the outset:

Wikipedia can, of course, write about Wikipedia, but context is important. If you read about Shakespeare's works, you are not interested in reading about Wikipedia's policies or conventions. If, however, you read about online communities, the article may well discuss Wikipedia as an example, in a neutral tone, without specifically implying that the article in question is being read on — or is a part of — Wikipedia.


In the context of this article, specifically the phenomenon of crank POV-pushing (which I and others can document and have documented), particularly since the removed items were internal links to Wikipedia pages which talk about Wikipedia but which can be a bit hard for newbies to find, not text in the article itself talking about the Wikipedia, it seems to me that Fubar's action was ill-considered. Comments? ---CH 13:59, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

While the links are internal Wikipedia links, they are not links to article namespace, but to Wikipedia namespace. I don't think an article should have "see also" links that go out of article namespace. When the encyclopedia is distributed on CDROM, the Wikipedia namespace won't go with it, and you'll have a bunch of articles with broken links. However, if the article contains text talking about Wikipedia from a neutral observer point of view, the presence of cranks on Wikipedia, and the response to their presence of the Wikipedia community, then it makes sense to include as external links (rather than internal "see also" links) relevant pages about Wikipedia editing and policy. At present, the article contains no such text, but if and when it does (see my proposed outline above), then I think these links can be used if they are changed to external links (full URLs etc). -lethe talk + 00:03, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

Point taken, but see next section for my preferred solution (with implied internal link to Wikipedia article replaced with external link) ---CH 00:20, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

Random Wikipedia self-linking?[edit]

What is the purpose behind the "Wikipedia as an information resource" and "Wikiprojects" link sections in the "See also" section? The Pseudoscience and Rational skepticism Wikiproject links are at best tenuously related to the article, and in any case not really of interest to a general audience. The rest of the links (which contain general information about Wikipedia and its processes) seem to be even more misplaced.

If there were some Wikipedia page specifically about cranks, and/or dealing with them, it might have been appropriate in this section, but these links are not that. --Piet Delport 13:43, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

Piet, I see a need for just such a page, and (since my time is short due to various other things--- see my contribs) I request you or some Wikipedia to create it forthwith. That done, I think we can replace the links some object to (with extremely silly extreme prejudice, in my view) with a link to the new article, which should of course the cite the links I mentioned. I hope this compromise will be acceptable to all. ---CH 23:27, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
I am new to this discussion, but from looking at the recent history, it seems that at least Fubar Obfusco, Henning Makholm, and myself agree that these links are not relevant enough to the subject, and inappropriate for a non-Wikipedia-editor audience. I don't think that moving the links around, or changing them from internal to external linking style, will change things much: it's the targets of the links that matter.
Are you sure that your (admirable!) involvement in these WikiProjects and Wikipedia processes are not coloring your view about their appropriateness in this context? --Piet Delport 09:36, 8 June 2006 (UTC)
Addendum: E23 is the latest user to stumble across this issue. --Piet Delport 13:42, 8 June 2006 (UTC)
I realize that I haven't adequately explained, but arguing with idgits on specific issues keeps preventing me from explaining some general conclusions I have drawn from my extensive experience. I wish you guys would be more willing to assume that my contributions suggest I probably am not "randomly" linking at all; see also WP:AGF. ---CH 23:18, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
Please, no need for WP:AGF. :) I can assure you that i've never been under the impression that your contributions are in anything less than the best of faith. (For the record, it would seem you can put many Wikipedia editors to shame, in this regard.)
I'm not trying to accuse you of "randomly" linking: as i've said before, while the links in question probably make sense for readers who are also Wikipedia editors, i don't think they're relevant or appropriate enough for a non-Wikipedia-editor audience. (That this is the audience Wikipedia is primarily aimed at is not something we should lose sight of.) --Piet Delport 16:23, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
Piet, to repeat "I request you or some Wikipedia to create it forthwith". TIA ---CH 23:20, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
It's probably way outside my ability and expertise to create such a work, i'm afraid. --Piet Delport 16:37, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the kudo above, Piet :-) Well, to find time to create this new article, I could sure use some help with cruft patrol re stuff like extreme physical information (a controversial theory uncritically described in this article which as I just discovered was created anonymously by none other than B. Roy Frieden, who has developed the theory in question). ---CH 00:54, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

Students beware[edit]

I extensively rewrote this article in May 2006 and had been monitoring it, but I am leaving the WP and am now abandoning this article to its fate.

Just wanted to provide notice that I am only responsible (in part) for the last version I edited; see User:Hillman/Archive. I emphatically do not vouch for anything you might see in more recent versions. This article concerns a controversial topic and on the basis of past arguments over content, I have reason to believe that it is particularly likely to present a slanted picture in at least some future versions.

Good luck in your seach for information, regardless!---CH 23:12, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

FA candidate[edit]

Great article! Let's nominate it for Wikipedia:Featured articles. --Uncle Ed 15:14, 3 August 2006 (UTC)


there is a redirection from to this page. Its a personal opinion and in this case the redirection has to be removed, right?

The redirect is unquestionably inappropriate, regardless of whether the website in question is crankery or not. I've restored it to its earlier target: 9/11 Truth Movement. --Piet Delport 23:36, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Lists of Crank Beliefs[edit]

Would it be appropriate to provide a (somewhat short) bulleted list of sample crank beliefs? There could be a few lists, one for each major category (math, physics, medicine, other?). Another possibility is to link to specific list articles, e.g., List of Mathematical Crank Beliefs, or something similar. Or is this too much and therefore inappropriate for Wiki? — Loadmaster 01:23, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Looks to me like there already is such a link in the "See also" section. Tengfred 07:30, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

The Crackpot Index (Baez, sci.physics 1998)[edit]

I found the 1998 article by Baez and inlined it. However, it appears that it is an "update" of a previous version. Unfortunately, I can't find the original version, skirting the Google event horizon at:

which is just evidence of it's existence as of 1992 October 16. mdf 16:51, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

And on a semi-related note: while Baez's contribution was of course intended to be humourous, it is still a useful list of crankishness. In a similar, but shorter, vein:

Patently hilarious but at the same time deeply insightful. Maybe even a working model of the phenomena. mdf 16:51, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

An unbalanced article?[edit]

Apologies if I'm butting into a discussion that has been going on for some time, but I just came across this article because I'm interested in the subject of cranks and it struck me as a little unbalanced in some respects. I can't see anything else in the discussion thread that echoes my concerns so the fault is almost certainly with me rather than the article, but I'll tell you the things that are bothering me just in case anyone else thinks they're appropriate. Basically I think the article narrows itself down too much. A crank, in common terminology, is any eccentric person, but the article first narrows this down to someone with eccentric beliefs, then to someone whose eccentric beliefs relate to scientific theories, and finally to someone whose scientific theories are the result of gross incompetence. I can think of many examples of crankery that appear to fall outside this narrow remit:

  • Is "Belief" too narrow? The world is full of cranks whose eccentricity is practical rather than theoretical. Someone who spends every moment of his spare time building an immaculately detailed model of St Paul's Cathedral out of matchsticks would be called a crank by most people, but this has nothing to do with unconventional beliefs. Many of the characters in Last of the Summer Wine are portrayed as "non-theoretical" cranks of this kind (e.g. Foggy, Seymour, Wesley and more recently Alvin).
  • Is "Science" too narrow? If you asked a random person in the street to describe a typical crank, I don't think they would mention relativity or Gödel's theorem or any of that stuff you talk about. They might mention antigravity or perpetual motion machines, but even then they would be thinking of practical inventions, not scientific theories. But the two things I think they would be most likely to mention are health cranks (e.g. people who claim to subsist purely on sunlight and yoga) and religious cranks (e.g. people who equate the written word with the reality that it's supposed to describe - something I'll come back to in a moment). These are definitely crank beliefs, but they're not scientific beliefs. Maybe scientific cranks are in the ascendant now because we live in such a technological society, but I wouldn't be surprised if 200 years ago they were outnumbered by the health cranks and religious cranks.
  • Is "Gross Incompetence" too narrow? The first thing to say is that the paper by Kruger and Dunning (which is very good) makes no mention of cranks, or indeed of "gross" incompetence. It is about incompetence in the sense of "substantially below average competence as measured against an appropriate peer group". As such, it is inevitable that any group of people in any field will include people who are "incompetent" by this definition. If you go to a symposium where there are 1000 physicists in the audience, it is a sad fact that something like a hundred of them will be incompetent by this definition. I don't think anyone would claim that all incompetent physicists are cranks, but is the converse true - are all cranks (whose crankery relates to physics) incompetent physicists?
  • I think it's useful before going further to distinguish between "amateur cranks" and "professional cranks" -- something the article doesn't really do. I studied physics in the late 70s and early 80s, at which time a significant number of people working in the field (possibly as many as one person in every department!) were commonly considered "cranks" by their peers. But I don't think these "professional cranks" were incompetent, and I don't think it was necessarily true that "arguing with the crank is useless, because he will invariably dismiss all evidence or arguments which contradict his cranky belief". The key thing is that for one reason or another they were eccentric, and tended to closet themselves away and work on their own line of research which was often at odds with the mainstream fashion. But it wasn't necessarily incompetent research, or what the mainstream would brand "scientifically impossible". It was just wacky and improbable - the main principle that was violated was that of Occam's razor. The most famous example of the sort of person I'm talking about is Fred Hoyle. He was a first-class scientist who, on the one and only occasion I saw him, was lecturing on the subject of Panspermia - not just viruses arriving in meteorites, but insects arriving in meteorites! This was a crank theory par excellence, but I don't think it was motivated by incompetence -- more a sort of thumbing the nose at the ponderousness of scientific convention (that was the impression I got, anyway).
  • Turning to amateur crankery, that's a different matter altogether. I've met several people of this type (in person, I mean - not on the internet) and I couldn't agree more that they are grossly, grossly incompetent when it comes to the motives and methods of academic science, and completely fail to understand any counter-argument against them. But in some respects, that's missing the point. These people are obssessed with the subject-matter of physics, towards which they have a completely different attitude from a professional physicist - much more emotional, much more literal, much more urgent. If you're a physicist, you sometimes forget just how big some of the ideas you deal with are - "the origin of the universe", "you can't go backwards in time", "you can't travel faster than light", "you can't create something out of nothing" etc. These may not seem like emotional subjects to you, but they are to the untrained amateur "science crank" - who, like the "religious crank" mentioned earlier, has difficulty distinguishing between concepts and the words used to describe those concepts. No doubt physicists were baffled by the outpouring of emotion over the "demotion" of Pluto from planetary status -- to a physicist the word planet means whatever it's defined to mean, and Pluto as an object still exists whether it's encompassed by the definition or not. But you can't stop uneducated people from feeling something important has been taken away from them, just as you can't stop amateur cranks from having desperately strong feelings about big issues they don't understand. - Andrew 13:48, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

OED citation mis-dated[edit]

The main text refers to the 1833 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. There is no such edition; the OED did not even begin to appear until many decades later. Fcw 15:18, 11 October 2006 (UTC)


Common theories as to the etymology of the words crank/cranky are that the word is derived from the German word for sick 'Kranken' or from one of the historic means of hard labour in british prisons, the practice of forcing an inmate to rotate a drum device via a crank handle. They would have to do a set number of rotations a day (which were recorded on a mechanical counter) and the prison wardens would frequently make the job harder by increasing the friction on the drum by turning a screw thread attached to a brake. The theory goes that such hard repetitive action would have a detrimental mental effect ie turning the crank handle making you cranky. It is certainly the origin of the nickname for British prison wardens. To this day they are knowm as 'screws'. I am surprised neither of these possible etymologie have been explored if only to discount them. Dondilly 15:10, 30 October 2006 (UTC)


Actually, much of the article reads like an editorial. Wahkeenah 05:55, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Criticism about this article[edit]

I think this article is a bit full of criticism... at his time Einstein , Cantor (Mathematician who first worked on infinities)orothers would have been considered to be 'cranks', i think there's a bit lack of respect for new ideas in this article,not all people proposing new ideas are cranks trolls or whatever you say, going agains usual thinking isn't a crime.

This would be true if "crank" merely meant "someone with scientific beliefs outside the mainstream", but it also means someone who disregards counterarguments and current evidence without good reason, and who fails to understand current scientific consensus, regardless of whether he disagrees with it. This rules out Einstein and Cantor. The definition of "crank" has little to do with people proposing new ideas. (talk) 20:05, 13 March 2008 (UTC)
What amounts to "good reason"? And how can one not fail to understand a consensus that one believes to be false? What if I asked you to "understand" that 2+2=5? Assuming the answers to these questions glosses over huge foundational issues in the philosophy of science and mathematics, and while I believe ignoring the lofty demands of metaphysicians is justified when it gets in the way of research, is it really worth doing just so one can snipe at strangers over the Internet? Wikipedia's policy of writing its articles based on scientific consensus is better than the alternatives, but it's another thing entirely to hurl pejoratives at the unorthodox. (talk) 10:40, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
No attempt at a "rational" discussion or argument is ever completely free of rhetoric and miscommunication. A great many misunderstandings are caused by miscommunication. And on top of that, consensus is no guarantee of accuracy. If anything, it is a surefire way to slip into the ad populum fallacy and GroupThink. Sure, people are going to draw some seriously out-there conclusions from whatever it is they have experienced, but being wrong isn't a crime. Even being really determined about being wrong isn't a crime. It doesn't require hostility nor pejorative terms to reduce a simple difference of understanding into an absurd Us-Vs-Them squabble... lest we at any point believe there is any validity or justification in calling someone a "Crank". ~ SotiCoto (talk) 11:23, 8 June 2012 (UTC)[edit]

There should be some reference to the extensive website

There used to be; it seems to have disappeared for no obvious reason a while ago. I put it back now. Tengfred 21:58, 19 November 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, I guess I could have done that too. I'm sure this page rubs some people the wrong way, but it's an important article. Wikipedia is fertile ground for crank science. Sadly, many noteable scientsts don't have a page, but pretty much every crank not only has an article, but also a dedicated following of true believers who guard it. DonPMitchell 05:55, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
I wasn't the one to remove the link to, but its status here is dubious. It is just the opinion of one non-notable person with no special insight into what does or does not constitute a "crank" or a "crank theory". When nip comes to tuck, such an opinion site is lucky to get any mention here at all (let alone a link), inasmuch as this amounts to an advert. The definition of crank - "a person who holds to an idea or opinion despite all counterargumentation and counterevidence" - is not something that can be definitively proven in the vast majority of cases. Sadly, the proprietor of is making definite accusations regarding various people and ideas, some of them clearly over his head. Obviously, Wikipedia is not in the business of condoning ignorance, prejudice, or unkind behavior. Asmodeus 15:31, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
It's a tricky problem, and strikes at the heart of Wikipedia's philosophy of not having strictly expert review. Many cranks have articles on wikipedia that present complete rubbish. The scientific community does not usually take the time to refute cranks. Instead, they reject their papers from the review process. If you try to refute a crank on wikipedia, their supporters will demand "cite a paper that proves him wrong!". Of course there are no such papers. The end result is bad for wikipedia, because it contains incorrect information. DonPMitchell 23:48, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
Opinion is opinion. There is no advantage to the Wikipedia in trying to pick one person's opinion over another. Jst because some group says that person is a crank or crackpot, unless they have objective evidence, like scientifically based, why should their opinion matter any more than someone else saying they're wrong? And disparaging the Wikipedia in a Talk page by saying it has a lot of crank articles is just impolite and issues with the Wikipedia itself should be brought up on other pages. I think a major issue with some people is a need to get validation for their particular axe that they want to grind, and these kind of people look to the Wikipedia to validate personal insults, and would like nothing better than to flame some person they dislike within the Wikipedia so that they can then use those flames in attacks against that person, like on Usenet. Simple thing is for the Wikipedia to remain an encyclopedia, and not a place for sophisticated personal attacks like I had to personally step in and delete off the main page, while leaving on the Talk page in keeping with the rules. Notice the person who put up statements that are clearly libel, was smart enough to put them on the Talk page as well, and even stoops to mentioning my "demise". These kind of people are sophisticated, dedicated, and willing to try and hurt their intended victims through any means they have. Why should the Wikipedia help them? JSH 01:59, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
I just want to point out that no-one can use "cite a paper that proves him wrong!" as an argument against you. Everything on Wikipedia must be verifiable using reliable sources: the burden of proof is always on the person who wants to add information, not the person who wants to remove it. --Piet Delport 06:50, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Fact tags[edit]

User:Xihr persists in adding {{fact}} tags to the two sentences

The rise of the Internet has given a voice to people well outside the mainstream who may get labeled cranks through internet postings or websites promoting particular beliefs.
There are also newsgroups which are nominally devoted to discussing (alt.usenet.kooks) or poking fun at (alt.slack, alt.religion.kibology) cranks.

This is completely unreasonable - fact tags are for claims that it is at least remotely plausible to doubt. Nobody can seriously doubt that the Internet makes it possible for cranks to spread their claims through newsgroups and websites, or that the explicitly named newsgroups do exist. Tagging these sentences with a demand for citations ranks on the level of demanding an external source for the sky being blue. Could somebody help keeping these spurious fact tags out of the article, please? I seem to be too close to WP:3RR to do it myself. Henning Makholm 20:00, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

These two sentences make claims. This claims must be backed up via WP:V, or they are WP:NOR. Xihr 20:46, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
The operative sentence in WP:V is: Any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged needs a reliable source, which should be cited in the article. These two truisms neither have been challenged or are likely to be challenged. Henning Makholm 21:24, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

That is the problem with people who like to push forward this whole "crank" thing--a refusal to back up their position properly. And when you dig down into it, you find these angry people who just are looking at ways to lash out at others. Like consider my case to see how it's about viciousness as notice no answer to me personally for any of the smears that I had to take off the main page where you can see what I mean on this Talk page above. But notice how low they went, even talking about my death as if I were just some thing, and not a human being. Dehumanizing others is so contrary to what the Wikipedia is about, and so much about how these people operate. And what "truisms"? Having been called a crank for years I think the Internet gives you the power to put information up for the whole world to see--and yet still be almost completely ignored. JSH 05:38, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

I must agree with Henning here. Do you really claim that "There are also newsgroups which are nominally devoted to discussing (alt.usenet.kooks) or poking fun at (alt.slack, alt.religion.kibology) people whom at least some label cranks" is not verifiable? Anyone with a newsreader can check that those newsgroups exist, which is all the sentence states. Tengfred 09:26, 28 November 2006 (UTC)
A long standing sore spot with me; hanging {{fact}} tags on everything without making the effort to check is at best unbelievably lazy, and at worst leads to deletion of stuff that is not only true, but verifiable; which is tantamount to vandalism, except that the vandal is at least honest about being destructive, whereas the "skeptic" hides behind the letter of the law. Gzuckier 17:19, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

i added a reference to an excellent paper on an analysis of the reasoning and logic behind some 'hopeless' attempts to disprove cantor's diagonal slash argument, which supports the definition of mathematical crank attributes (ability, use of standard notation, ignoring arguments against, misunderstanding terminology) and also removed the citation needed tag from the page m3tainfo 19:24, 29 September 2007 (UTC)

The paper is good, and I suspect it can be relevant in this article somehow. (Didn't we used to link it somewhere earlier? Or was that at pseudomathematics?). However, I don't think that it actually backs the claims on which you have placed the citation. On the contrary, it appears that Hodges studiously omits any discussion of the possibly cranky behavior of the authors he reports on. He writes:
... there is every temptation to imagine that anyone who writes a paper attacking [Cantor's diagonal proof] must be of a dangerously unsound mind. One should resist this temptation; the facts don't support it. On a few occasions I was able to speak to the authors of these papers; one or two were clearly at sea, but others were as sane as you or me.
The "clearly at sea" wording is the only one in the paper that even hints at crankery. Otherwise the authors are consistently portrayed as honestly mistaken; there is no claim or implication that they stick to their mistake with the unreasoning persistence that earns one the "crank" label. –Henning Makholm 21:13, 29 September 2007 (UTC)
i do think the article supports the fact that cranks in the mathematical realm exhibit lack of understanding of terms, notation, subject matter and lack of mathematical ability and ignoring fine distinctions. maybe it needs an explanation that sometimes seemingly cranky beliefs that exhibit those three numbered characteristics in the paragraph of the article are not crazy, just wrong in a fundamental way, due to a misapprehension or lack of understanding of the subject or the process of argument/logical reasoning m3tainfo 19:38, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
You are missing the fact that the cited paper is not about cranks; there is nothing in it to support the claim that the people it is about exhibit the characteristics of cranks. Merely being wrong does not make somebody a crank; it is the way one presents one's wrongness that is the defining feature of a crank. –Henning Makholm 21:33, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

"Stupid" addition[edit]

I added one line to the article noting that use of insults may tell more about the perpetrator than the target and noted that the definition given also implied "stupid".

The problem I think with not noting strongly that it is an insult along the lines of calling someone stupid is in validating the insult to be used against people targeted as "cranks" which I know about as I've had someone link to this article in Usenet flame wars.

Keeping the Wikipedia out of inter-personal battles depends on its objectivity--leaning neither to one side nor the other--and readers not aware of attempts by some to use the Wikipedia in personal wars should note corrections I've had to make to the main page including removing text that actually talked about my death as if it were a humorous topic.

People willing to get amusement out of the topic of your death are not the people you want slanting the article or being validated by the article not being completely honest about the full implications of the term and its usage.

JSH 12:37, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

I took out this line again, twice now. The addition is completely redundant; whichever verifiable meaning is has is already implied by the fact that "crank" is a pejorative term. Look up the word "pejorative" - it is the fourth word in the article and quite clearly tells the reader that there is a (not-very-)implicit value judgement going on. Your persistent vague and irrelevant references to alleged death treats confers no license to fill the article with such non-encyclopedic context. We're attempting to write an encyclopedia here, not a style guide, a how-to or a treatise in good manners. Henning Makholm 13:04, 3 December 2006 (UTC)
Maybe you could substitute "insulting" for "pejorative", which the reader might have to look up. (Sorry for being insulting). Wahkeenah 13:39, 3 December 2006 (UTC)
There is nothing wrong with some redundancy in an encyclopedia article if it helps understanding, and "pejorative" may force some readers to go to their dictionaries or chase the link to find out what it means, while noting that the definition given is akin to stupid is just an objective take on what precedes that line. I find it hard to understand why there is a fight over this line, but I am willing to push this issue to have it included. And as for people joking about your death, have it happen to any of you and see how calm you can be about it then. I am very wary of a non-objective crank article being used by unsavory people with a hostile agenda which demeans the Wikipedia and what it stands for. Oh yeah, if this article is NOT objective then the Wikipedia leaves itself open to lawsuits from people who find themselves defamed by people using the article which I am not going to just sit by and let idly happen just because some people have an agenda and a need to keep the article from being objective. The included line helps the objectivity of the article. JSH 21:57, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

Suggestions for Improvement[edit]

In 'The Psychology of Cranks' The phrase "cognitive abnormalities" is used to describe traits with unestablished prevalence (or normality) in the general population. Suggest replacing with "cognitive disadvantages," as the disadvantageousness of said traits can be readily established. 17:38, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Not all cranks lack academic training[edit]

An example: de:Wolfgang Thüne - at least this guy is a trained meteorologist and a typical crank in denying the greenhouse effect. --KnightMove 09:39, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

I don't see any claim in the article that "all cranks lack academic training". The closest we get is a guarded statement that some cranks lack academic achievements. Where in the article do you think clarification is needed? –Henning Makholm 22:13, 19 October 2007 (UTC)
I think that:
"Cranks who contradict some mainstream opinion in some highly technical field, such as mathematics or physics, almost always"
  1. exhibit a marked lack of technical ability,"
can be interpreted in this way. Someone who is academically trained on the topic, must have some technical ability there. --KnightMove 23:43, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

Bizarre page[edit]

This page is quite bizarre. It doesn't read like something you'd find in an encyclopedia, but it's not quite something you'd find in a dictionary either. I would expect to find this kind of content in an urban dictionary. There's also a lot of POV and anecdotal first-hand research based on personal experience which doesn't fit with the style of an encyclopedia. It is interesting, however, in that it goes into a lot of depth on a subject for which there aren't many other resources, however, as for being encyclopedic, I fail to see how it's marked on B on any scale, from what I see it's an F, no two ways about it.

I was going to mark the page as disputed or POV or first hand research or something, but none of these quite fit. Perhaps the right solution is to delete the page (save perhaps the introduction) and start from scratch? Brianski 23:43, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

I agree. I removed the link to 'Tax Protester' since it doesn't belong on this page. (talk) 01:10, 22 October 2008 (UTC)

Dunning & Kruger[edit]

There was a {{fact}} tag which was accompanied by the following HTML comment: "I don't think that there's anything controversial about Kruger and Dunning per se, *but I'd like to see a cite for "is often thought to bear directly upon a striking and virtually universal characteristic of cranks"*. Really? Often? By whom? Thanks. ". I've changed that to {{request quotation}} which is what seems to be intended. (talk) 11:38, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

The whole section which mentions this needs to go, as the paper itself does not mention cranks or kooks and no source linking the paper to the issue of cranks has been provided, so we have a clear case of original research. WP:NOR is a core policy of Wikipedia and is non-negotiable and hence the section has to go. That "is often thought" quote has been there for two years now without any sources to back it up. MartinPoulter (talk) 12:32, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Restored Bruce Sterling quote[edit]

Apparently removed without discussion. I think it belongs here because it explains crankery and Internet kookery very clearly - David Gerard (talk) 09:14, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

I'm not the one who removed the quote in the first place, but I'm not so sure. The quote is more about civility in online discourse than crankiness -- the reference to a crank (even though the word crank is never actually stated) is only thrown in at the end of someone who is a typical target. Xihr (talk) 22:25, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
I cut the quote down a bit. It started out by satirizing the notion that adding a smiley to an insult somehow makes it non-insulting, and it is possible that the editor who deleted the quote thought it was supposed to comment on the civility (or lack of same) of calling somebody a crank. The trimmed quote is more to the point, though I'm not entirely convinced that it serves a purpose in this article. –Henning Makholm 04:02, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

What is a Crank?[edit]

Someone who publishes under a pseudonym or anonymously. This would include of course most contributors to Wikipedia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:41, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

Indeed, the Wikipedia Moronica is mostly the work of mainstream cranks. In truth, anyone whose ideas are at odds with theirs, is by definition a crank. (talk) 14:08, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

Relativity of Crankery[edit]

The wording of this section was patronizing, which is irritating because a lot of what it said was factually wrong. The number of cases in history where a crank opinion became mainstream is very, very large. Skyrmions, Evolution, Heliocentrism, infinitesimals, etc. The standard way a new idea starts out is as crankery, and the people who hold it need to defend themselves from constant attack, and so develop a humongous ego. This really is indistinguishable in practice from the nutcases.Likebox (talk) 16:55, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

I didn't "revert" this article. The first time I read this article was today. I never saw a previous version, I just fixed obvious wrong stuff.Likebox (talk) 16:56, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

Your first edit today clearly reverted back to the 2006 version. You are not to do that. Now you have done three multi-year reverts within one hour. If you keep that up you will get blocked. –Henning Makholm (talk) 17:01, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
I have never even seen these previous versions! You are crazy.Likebox (talk) 17:02, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
Please look at the diffs. They are extremely clear. The difference between your version and the 2006 one is one word. The difference between your version that the one immediately before it is paragraph upon paragraph of complete change. –Henning Makholm (talk) 17:06, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
Ok--- but I just stumbled across this page. Are you trying to tell me that someone else reverted to the 2006 version just before I came across it? I changed one word (counterfactual -> false) then I read the rest of the thing, and got annoyed, so I changed a couple of paragraphs. I'll look over the diffs.Likebox (talk) 17:11, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
It's some sort of bug--- I didn't mean to revert to some distant state. I don't know how it happened.Likebox (talk) 17:19, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm telling you that you reverted; that is what the edit logs say. You may have stumbled in through an explicit link to the old version of the page; such archived pages have ordinary edit buttons, but clicking them will lead to a reverting edit. There's a warning banner or two, though, which may be easy to overlook when one focuses as doing the edit. You could not have started out with a contemporary revision, because the word "counterfactual" that you tried to change did not even exist in the version just prior to your edit. –Henning Makholm (talk) 17:30, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
I didn't think I reverted. Sorry about that. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary (scratch head) (confused look). Anyway, I did some stuff here, and maybe it's controversial. Do you have complaints about that.
Also, I came across it from a current wikipedia page, no weird linking in, and I got no strange warning for the edit.Likebox (talk) 17:36, 16 March 2009 (UTC)


Any discussion of a concept like "crank" which pretends to objectivity is POV laden by definition. If you want to restore the idea that there is an objective demarcation line between crank and non-crank, find a way to say it that doesn't make it sound like everyone believes it. Plenty of totally crank ideas obsessively pushed by egomaniacs have later been conclusively demonstrated. For examples in science, there are: meteorites, evolution, heliocentrism, hypnosis, H pylori, nuclear energy, and many others. Examples in mathematics include non-standard analysis, forcing and non-euclidean geometry.Likebox (talk) 00:11, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps your interest in improving the article would be best satisfied by adding a well-referenced section on how accusations of crankery are sometimes used unfairly to stifle challenges to an established orthodoxy, or even to promote unorthodox viewpoints. Thatsjustnotcricket (talk) 01:44, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
Considering that nothing on this article is referenced at all, that seems hardly necessary.Likebox (talk) 17:21, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree that "great scientists" is bad language, I should probably say something else. But I can't think of a characteristic to distinguish Galileo's writing from crank writing, except that he's right a lot, while cranks are wrong a lot.Likebox (talk) 17:24, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I tried new wording. Please let me know what bothers you specifically.Likebox (talk) 17:26, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
What bothers me is that you seem to be persistently attempting to weaken the article and discredit the idea of a crank by injecting the common defenses cranks themselves use in their attempts to deflect legitimate criticisms, such as ignorance of the mainstream theory they claim superiority to, logical inconsistency, and inability to effectively communicate the ideas they claim to have. You're making exceptional claims by attributing many real discoveries to apparent cranks, and they each need to be properly referenced if they are all supportable, which I doubt.
You keep bringing up examples from prescientific and protoscientific times, when early scientists were unpopular with people unfamiliar with, or poor at applying, principles of scientific thought and procedure, and the modern concept of a crank simply couldn't apply. People like Galileo were not cranks, because there was no legitimate scientific mainstream in that prescientific time.
The claim that hypnosis has now been vindicated by mainstream science is highly questionable claim, as are the claims that non-standard analysis, non-euclidian geometry, or H. pylori's role in ulcers were ever crankish, rather than simply regarded with reasonable lack of interest and skepticism by the mainstream until well developed and proven.
You make too many iffy claims for it to be feasible to dig through them all and disprove them. The burden of proof must be on you, to be allowed to add this material, and you seem unwilling to take the effort to support your claims with anything more than top-of-the-head justifications.
You've stated your opinion elsewhere that all truly great scientists started out as cranks, and to me, that marks you out as someone with a hostile agenda toward this page. To be blunt, you appear in many ways to be a crank attempting to legitimize crankhood, and I regard myself in this matter as protecting a page from a persistent non-NPOV attack.
Quality problems with an article (i.e. lack of references) are not excuses for replacing portions of it with even poorer quality material (more extreme unreferenced claims).
Understand that you're not merely contributing to the article, you're replacing well-written and well-thought-out text with what appears to be a casual and unexamined expression of your own opinions. That is disrespectful toward the contributions of others. You need to make a case that your substitute material is superior to what was previously there. Thatsjustnotcricket (talk) 02:23, 21 March 2009 (UTC)
There is a grain of truth to what you write. I am trying to defend "cranks" because there is the idea that cranks are not responsible for any knowledge called science.
You are wrong about hypnosis. To see the sources, look at the page and talk page on pseudoscience. I am not sure about H. Pylori, but consider this: In order to convince others, one of the scientists had to give himself an ulcer. Does that sound like the idea was being listened to with reasoned skepticism?
I have come to agree that early science is a problem for examples, because Galileo etc were writing before the notion of pseudoscience were established. So these examples don't belong on the pseudoscience page. But Galileo was definitely a crank! He refused to write in Latin, he made fun of academics, and he claimed such non-mainstream things like "things fall at the same rate". If you have not read Galileo's writing, I urge you to do so.
Most scientists most definitely do not start out as cranks. Pauli was never a crank. Neither was Schwinger. The reason is that both of them were given a mantle of authority--- Pauli was singled out by Einstein, and Schwinger by Bohr. Some good scientists are not so lucky. Lars Onsager spent a long time in the wilderness, and in this position a scientist and a crank are largely indistinguishable (except if you listen to the content of the ideas).
I don't claim to have a neutral point of view. I have a point of view, and I fight for it. Considering that people with another point of view wrote this article, battling it out with them is the only process that will ensure that the article comes out neutral in the end.Likebox (talk) 17:21, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

You appear to be trying the sneakily redefine "crank" to include all honest, well-reasoned scientists who just happen to hold minority opinions. This paragraph, which you repeatedly remove, explains that it is not so:

Nonetheless, since the nature of mainstream opinion can change over time, it is useful to define crankery in terms of characteristics which are independent of the allegedly cranky belief. Indeed, it is widely accepted that the true hallmark of the crank is not so much asserting that the Earth is flat as making this assertion in the face of all counterarguments and contrary evidence. Certain authors (see the references) who have studied the phenomenon of crankery agree that this is the essential defining characteristic of a crank: No argument or evidence can ever be sufficient to make a crank abandon his belief.

You want to replace this with

Since the nature of mainstream opinion can change over time, it is not clear how to define crankery in terms of characteristics which are independent of the allegedly cranky belief.

which directly contradicts the explanation you're removing. Being wrong does not make one a crank, nor does being in the minority do it. What makes one a crank is the manner in which a minority view is presented: the failure to make coherent arguments, the failure to understand the arguments that lead to the majority view, the consequent paranoid assertions that the "real" reason anybody ever subscribed to the majority view must be "because careers have been built upon it", the focusing on the crank's own intellectual superiority instead of on the mater at hand, etc., etc. All of these (defining) characteristics are entirely divorced from the particular position championed by the crank. Indeed it is conceivable for somebody do defend a majority view in a cranky manner, if he could somewhere locate enough opposition to fuel his paranoia. –Henning Makholm (talk) 22:47, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

I am of the opinion that there is hardly any distinction that can be made between a crank defending an unreasonable idea against all counterarguments and a reasonable person trying to persuade others of an original idea, correct or not. In both cases, it sounds to the listener like the person is attacking well established positions for no reason and replacing them with gibberish. Since it is relatively rare that people encounter genuinely true ideas outside of the working scientific literature, I think that they overestimate the degree to which a correct, but original, idea sounds different from crank rants when new. Unfortunately, when reading older literature, it is hard to realize how crazy an idea sounded, because it already has percolated about and people have some familiarity and respect for it.
Let me give you a personal example: in 1996 or so, I heard a lecture by Willy Fischler on Matrix theory. I had no idea who he was, or what this was about, but I had a pretty open mind. I listened to his explanation of these matrices, and all his claims made absolutely no sense. It was crazy, crazy, crazy. He sounded like a lunatic. I remember walking out of there thinking "This is the stupidest lecture I have ever heard, and this idea makes no sense, even as compared to the craziest crazy rant." People applauded politely, I did too, but I remember thinking "why are they applauding? This guy just presented a childish matrix model that any freshman could think up, and then, with no convincing argument, tells you that it is equivalent to an 11 dimensional dynamics?". It took me many, many years to even understand what it was that they were proposing, and exactly how brilliant and correct it was.
Now imagine if Fischler didn't have an academic position. He would be completely indistinguishable from a crank.Likebox (talk) 03:40, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
You persist in assuming that it is the idea that makes the crank a crank. It is not. It is quite right that you cannot tell from the idea itself whether its holder is a crank, but that is beside the point. The crankiness is not in the idea, but in how the crank acts towards the established view that he is opposing. The fact that you fail to understand a speaker in no way makes him a crank. He may propose any kind of strange, crazy stuff, but he is not a crank unless he takes to calling the adherents of the conventional position crazy or dishonest.
A crank is someone who thinks that the brilliance of his own ideas excuses him from considering the arguments that point towards another view. If he acknowledge that they exist at all, he will sweepingly denounce them as nonsense, and show now sign of having seriously tried to understand them in the first place. He considers the rightness of his own idea to be sufficient rebuttal to any and all argument for a different idea.
In contrast, a non-crank may think that his explanation is better than the conventional one, but he will recognize that the conventional idea is held for a reason; he will understand the arguments for it and either rebut each in a reasonable manner or explain why the argument is compatible with his position, too.
All of this is nothing about how crazy (or not) the crank's actual ideas are; it is all about the crank's attitude towards the established position. Someone who argues for a novel, crazy, revolutionary and possibly false idea without any cranky disdain for the conventional position is not a crank.
I wonder: Did Fischler claim that the Standard Model is a fake, a lie, utterly unsupported by either common sense or empiry? Did he wax lyrical about how those who didn't accept his theory as gospel would be first up against the wall when the string revolution comes? Did he claim that people failed to embrace his ideas primarily for fear of their careers, and not because they honestly found other ideas more convincing? Did he roar incoherently at the guy in the audience who brought up a point against his theory? If he did nothing of that sort, you could have easily concluded that he was not a crank, no matter how strange his content was. Wrong, maybe -- crazy and deluded, certainly possible -- but a crank, evidently not. –Henning Makholm (talk) 11:55, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Fischler didn't need to do any of that, because he is a well respected person. But Galileo does do things which are very close to what you say. He argues against Aristotelian positions without acknowleging any worth to them, and with arguments that many of the followers of Aristotle considered naive. He makes fun of the Aristotelians, and implicitly says that their ideas would be up against the wall.
The point is the issue of power. Fischler is in a reasonably good position to promote a new idea, and so his idea gets a fair hearing. If he were not in such a good position, it is not clear that he would not be labelled a crank.Likebox (talk) 00:02, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

Conspiracy theorists[edit]

This article only seems to discuss science cranks and not conspiracy theorist cranks. Are conspiracy theorists cranks? Or is there a distinction? Can we maintain that a crank holds an nutty opinion about a scientific idea, whereas a conspiracy theorist holds an nutty opinion about society? A UFOlist might lie in the intersection. --Michael C. Price talk 09:39, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Well, I don't want to come off as a crank here, but there have been conspiracy theories which are correct. And there are lower-level conspiracy theories which many people hold - "Oh, such-and-such a politician is in such-and-such a vested interest's pocket", and so forth. I don't think that all conspiracy theorists are cranks, and vice-versa. (talk) 14:54, 18 March 2013 (UTC)


Schizophrenia? As a scientist, my colleges and I often receive mailings from individuals in the public about their "theories". Often, these mailings exhibit EXTREMELY bizarre discordant thinking. Enough for me to conclude, even as a non-psychiatrist, that they were made by someone clearly suffering from schizophrenia. Yet that term doesn't appear in the article. There is mention of "mental health" but my opinion is that schizophrenia is the predominate cause of crank mailings. Maybe somebody can back up such a claim with a reference. Jason Quinn (talk) 19:21, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

NOTE: fixed old typos and phrasing for clarity. Jason Quinn (talk) 22:13, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

In my experience, many "reformable cranks" may simply have a lack of the basics in science education, but are otherwise well adjusted in their interactions. Indeed, their drive and inventiveness can be "high human spirit". They don't have the knowledge to avoid going down specific wrong paths, but because of this, they go down paths which can be fun to watch and can give the rest of us some good ideas. The whole "zero-point" energy thing has led me to learn more about cosmology for example. The "reformable" (non-schizophrenic) cranks just need a physics class and a little better understanding of their own particular human foibles. (talk) 19:35, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Temporal Bias[edit]

It is not fair to the cranks of today(who may themselves be vindicated) to say that they "are" cranks but that people who were cranks like Alfered Wegener were only "considered to be" such. By the first sentence's definition of crankery, he certainly was a crank. If there isn't a way to write this page without actually applying this epithet to anybody and probably diminishing objectivity, maybe it shouldn't exist. (talk) 11:24, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

Did Wegener cling unshakeably to his beliefs in the face of contrary evidence? Was there any contrary evidence? -- cheers, Michael C. Price talk 14:24, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

Who gets to decide what counts as contrary evidence? Before you hyperbolize and ask me why that criticism shouldn't be extended to all scientific articles on Wikipedia, I think there is a fundamental difference involved. This isn't a scientific, but a meta-scientific article, and because of that lacks the merits of a scientific one. (talk) 11:50, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

Misleading use of "cranky"[edit]

Suggest this be redacted throughout, could be misleading for non native speakers and the usage is unique to this article/the topic. The general connotation of "cranky" is irritable, particularly of small children, unrelated to what this article is about. "Crankery" for example as a neologism unique to the topic has no such problem and a similar usage should work. (talk) 15:26, 27 December 2011 (UTC)

Wegener a crank?[edit]

Currently the section The Crank and Abstract Truth contains the following:

It has happened that when a scientific paradigm changes, a belief previously considered cranky can later become the new dominant paridigm. Famously, the notion of continental drift proposed by Alfred Wegener was widely considered by contemporary geologists to be crankish

But this article is entitled Crank (person), so the article is about cranks, not about widely rejected ideas. A crank has no significant evidence to back up his claims, and (importantly) is unwilling to look at evidence contradicting his idea. Judging by the bio article on him, neither of these criteria hold for Wegener.

Since the passage does not mention a crank, I'm deleting it. But I think it would be a good addition to the article to give a sourced example or examples of someone who was a crank, rejecting all rational argument, yet who turned out to be right. Duoduoduo (talk) 23:50, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

This is overreaching, a strawman. a destructive and ill-considered edit that removed a critical point addressing the typical behavior of how the crank refers to others who have held unaccepted beliefs. Nobody is saying that Wegener is a crank (although his case is popularly held to be one of if not The canonical one of reversal of a notion at first having "crank" status, which is not to say anyone is asserting that Wegener was considered a crank by his peers), the earlier editors placed it for illustrative purposes (rightly), and its clumsy removal without adjustment of subsequent text throws the latter out of context as well as removing the essential point/the contrast that the § is illustrating. Restored. Lycurgus (talk) 12:41, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
First, the article needs to be in good English, not bad English. The word is "crankish", not "cranky". The word "contending" does not mean "arguing against". "However" is not a conjunction. Please don't restore bad English.
Second, the disputed passage says that Wegener's idea was considered crankish. But (a) the article is about people who are cranks (see the title of the article) and not about crankish ideas held by non-cranks; and (b) contrary to the wording of the disputed section, the idea was not considered to be crankish, just completely wrong. The Wegener case has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of people who are cranks or ideas that are crankish. Duoduoduo (talk) 16:56, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for helping me set a resolution not to waste time on this site further this year, not that I regret the public service. Couldn't have been a better article for it. (talk) 11:49, 3 January 2012 (UTC)

Criticism of this article[edit]

Let's start with a sentence by sentence breakdown of the first couple paragraphs:

>"Crank" is a pejorative term used for a person who holds an unshakable belief that most of his or her contemporaries consider to be false.

Is this article about cranks or the word "crank"? Bare in mind that this is an important distinction, and if it is the latter then this should be an entry on Wiktionary unless the word itself has significant notability.

>A crank belief is so wildly at variance with those commonly held as to be ludicrous.

Are beliefs that are drastically different automatically ludicrous? I have not seen anyone try and defend that point in any discussion about cranks or their beliefs, unless they were arguing that scientific truth was a social construction.

>Cranks characteristically dismiss all evidence or arguments which contradict their own unconventional beliefs,

In the tradition of Popperian falsifiability, this is required of ANY true theory.

However, these concerns are only secondary.

For God's sake, we have here an article where the very first sentence explicitly identifies the subject as a pejorative term, and then proceeds to describe those to whom the term applies! This is Wikipedia applying a pejorative to people! I don't understand how one could possibly have a more blatant violation of NPOV. Imagine if the entry for "nigger" proceeded to describe them as having gold teeth and committing felonies. Imagine if someone tried to backpedal and said that it was okay to use the word "nigger" to describe someone as long as they fit the stereotype! You have to make the distinction between the concept of a crank in the mind of the person using the epithet, and the actual existence of cranks(which if Wikipedia is to be a values-neutral source of information, must according to us be zilch). This is the difference between taking the stance that "nigger" is a stereotype and that "nigger" represents a physical reality.

Either "crank" is not a pejorative term, at least not when used by us, or it is a pejorative term, in which case if this entry is to exist at all then it must restrict itself to the description of the IDEA of a "crank", not "cranks" as they really are. (talk) 20:42, 29 October 2012 (UTC)


Possible CoI: I am a young-earth creationist. This is defined as a "crank" belief by virtually every scientist working in the relevant fields today. Should not creationism be mentioned in this article (there is not one mention of it), as possibly, nay, likely, the premier exemplar of a modern, widely-held belief (in America, 46% are young-earth creationists[1], but truth is not amenable to majority vote: merely an illustration of the penetration of this crank belief) that is held with deep conviction, but is considered to be crank-like and wildly erroneous in the scientific consensus of today? Even if they do not use the word - and many do - there are possibly thousands, and almost certainly hundreds of sources, from Scientific American to books by Dawkins and the "New Atheists" to popular books of paleontology (Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters by Prothero and Buell) to American court decisions that define and describe this theory to be crank. There is a non-cottage industry dedicated to creationism, and an equal one dedicated to rebutting it. I'm a creationist, for God's sake, and this seems to be a glaring omission in the article, that creationism is not once mentioned despite all I have written. St John Chrysostom Δόξατω Θεώ 08:11, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

  1. ^ 46% YEC, 32% theistic evolutionists, 15% materialistic evolutionists

What a biased article![edit]

"...or who deny extremely well established physical theories, such as the special theory of relativity,..."

The theory of relativity is by no means well-established. That a group of ignorant academics get together and decide what constitutes knowledge does not make it well-established. This article is biased, lacks reliable resources and ought to be deleted. (talk) 07:54, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

Yeah! That's the same group of ignorant academics who claim that gravity is real! And electromagnetism! Where do these people get the idea that theories about electromagnetism are well-established??!!? What's wrong with those scientists, anyway??!!? They do a lot of calculations and run lots of experiments, and when they get consistent results, they just jump to conclusions! And it's these same people who refuse to accept that The Moon is made of green cheese! This article needs more balance! We need more discussion of the green cheese theories! Famspear (talk) 12:26, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
I do conclude, though, that the article needs more sourcing. Famspear (talk) 12:43, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

The scientists haven't got the Theory of Everything down yet. So no, they don't fully understand electromagnetism and gravity. And you thought they did?

This article is just about cranks who don't think they are cranks expressing what they think a crank is.

Remove the article. It's pathetic.

— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:09, 6 December 2013 (UTC) 

Irrelevant Reference[edit]

The following reference should be removed from the article:

^ Hodges, Wilfrid (1998). "An Editor Recalls Some Hopeless Papers". The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 4 (1): 1–16. doi:10.2307/421003. JSTOR 421003. A paper describing several attempts at disproving Cantor's diagonal argument, looking at the flaws in their arguments and reasoning.

It is a biased work intended at disparaging anyone who questions Cantorian theory, of which much has not been proven to be correct. (talk) 14:10, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

As an analysis crank research behavior in a particular subject in mathematics, it seems relevant for providing examples. The review by Stewart Shapiro paints a very different picture, and is probably a voice worth listening to.

This article is a careful and insightful analysis of a large number of papers that attempt to refute Cantor's diagonal argument (establishing that the set of real numbers is larger than the set of natural numbers). The papers (none of which are quoted) were taken from the author's long experience as editor and referee. Rather than dismiss the work as the output of cranks or unknowing amateurs, the author tries to locate the sources of the confusions and other errors. He shows how the attempted refutations often turn on potentially misleading expositions of Cantor's theorem and, even more, on serious and misleading gaps in the way that elementary logic is typically taught. (MR1609195)

Rschwieb (talk) 16:35, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
Agree. Hodges is also significantly quoted in the literature—see Google Scholar and Google Books. - DVdm (talk) 17:50, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

Disambiguate John Law link[edit]

The current link to John Law in the "monetary cranks" section points to a disambiguation page. Which of the names there is the intended target? From the context I narrowed it down naively to the Indiana representative and the Scottish economist, based on subject matter and time period. Can someone please authoritatively say what was meant? Thanks Rschwieb (talk) 14:08, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

I looked at John Law (representative) and found literally nothing extraordinary or remarkable. It appears he's only considered notable because he was a Congressman. I don't think I've ever seen such a trivial wikibio before. Nothing interesting is said about him. (My own life appears exciting in comparison!) Which might be remarkable in and of itself, I don't know (I'm reminded of the interesting number paradox). Unless there is something really big omitted from the wikibio, I fail to see why you even considered this John Law. It's so obvious that he doesn't fit the bill, while John Law (economist) does. So I've changed the link to point to the economist.  Done --Florian Blaschke (talk) 07:38, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

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Organization Suggestion[edit]

Assuming this article doesn't get deleted/significantly trimmed down, it might be a good idea to add it to the Pseudoscience series. Assuming it gets fixed, however. Dr Roach (talk) 02:43, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

@Dr Roach: I disagree. I see no overlap with this article and pseudoscience. If you think there are problems with it, then WP:SOFIXIT. Since you're new here (assuming you are new) then you might find more incremental ways to pitch in. Chris Troutman (talk) 01:28, 12 October 2017 (UTC)

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I made a few changes to the etymology section. The Dickson source that was already mentioned in the article says that "krank" was possibly an idiosyncratic invention by a single author, and modern use of the term may overstate its historical use, which he says was "virtually unheard of in the 19th century" (see this entry in his book). I also added a {{relevance-inline}} tag to an unsourced statement about someone who played a character named Kookie. I'm thinking to myself, "So what?" Has any reliable source connected this character to the popularization of the terms "crank" or "kook"? If not, we should probably remove this. I tweaked the part about the Daily Mail's definition of "kook" because the claim it "may have first appeared" in that article was completely unsourced. You can't cite a primary source as evidence that it was the first usage of a term. You need to find a reliable source that explicitly calls it the first use. NinjaRobotPirate (talk) 06:51, 7 July 2018 (UTC)