interactive help on the base object

Steven D'Aprano steve at
Tue Dec 10 04:19:46 CET 2013

On Mon, 09 Dec 2013 05:59:29 -0500, Ned Batchelder wrote:

> And the cycle continues:

> Maybe we could just not?

A reasonable request, but just because it's reasonable doesn't mean it is 
a no-brainer that we shouldn't engage with Mark.

While I'm very confident at this point that he is a crank, in the same 
category as circle-squarers, cold fusion proponents, pi-is-a-rational-
number theorists, perpetual motion machine inventors, evolution or AGW 
Denialists[1], and other such obsessive examples of Dunning-Kruger, I'm 
not *totally* confident that he is a crank. Maybe he'll prove me wrong 
and actually learn something. Who knows, maybe *I'll* learn something!

Even if Mark is a crank and beyond the reach of logic, reason or facts, 
and I'm 90% convinced his is, consider that he's not the only one reading 
this thread. If just one person learns something useful or new from a 
reply to Mark, I believe that it is worthwhile.

I daresay that at some point I'll make the same decision as you, that the 
pain of answering Mark is not worth the benefit to readers, or perhaps 
that there aren't any readers who will learn something new. But I'm not 
there yet. (Perhaps I'm just slow.)

Speaking of cranks, anyone unaware of the Crack-pot index should check it 

It's probably more entertaining for those who have actually spent time 
engaging with cranks in the sciences (e.g. Relativity Denialists) or 

[1] A lot of people dislike the term Denialist. I justify it this way -- 
there is a difference between those who merely have doubts about the 
existence of something (say, evolution, global warming, the Holocaust, 
Operation Gladio, Shakespeare, etc.) and a Denialist. Those doubts don't 
even need to be *reasonable* doubts. If the person happens to be 
unknowledgeable (i.e. ignorant) about the subject in question, their 
doubts may be unreasonable relative to the state of knowledge. What 
matters is whether the person doing the doubting is reasonable. Denialists 
are cranks. Not all people who deny, dispute or question accepted 
knowledge are cranks.

Normally the difference between a crank and a non-crank is relatively 
obvious. One very strong sign is to ask the question "what evidence would 
change your mind?". If the answer is either "no evidence at all will 
change my mind", or something which is impossible to satisfy (e.g. "I 
won't accept evolution until I see a chicken give birth to a human 
being"), then the person is a crank and hence the term Denialist is 
likely to be apt.


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