Cranks and Brain Damage
Of course, I failed. No matter how sound your arguments are, you can never win with a crank. Regardless of what you tell them or show them, they are incapable (totally, absolutely, UTTERLY incapable) of comprehending the possibility that their belief might be wrong.
I've often pondered why cranks act the way they do. Are they joking, trying to be funny? Are they insane? Are they pathological contrarians? Are they liars? What?
This month's American Scientist has a book review that hints that cranks might actually be brain damaged.
Here's a quote from Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation:
The confabulation syndromes, Hirstein suggests, reflect "knowledge deficits." Confabulators suffer from a derailment of processes by which we ascertain our beliefs about the world. Their brains produce fast and loose hypotheses but, crucially, fail to check them for accuracy. Instead, confabulators experience a "pathological certainty" that whatever springs to mind is simply true, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Their inability to cross-check their beliefs blocks them from acknowledging how deeply flawed their claims are; accordingly, they can't perceive or even conceive their own deficits.Yep, those symptoms sound pretty crankish to me. (The author thinks that confabulation is caused by problems in the orbitofrontal cortext.)
I stopped arguing with cranks long ago, but if, by some irritating turn of events, I ever get dragged into a crank-argument, I wont bother with logic. I'll just calmly explain to them, "YOUR MIND IS F--KED, MAN!" and leave it at that.
Adventures with an Ice Pick
Speaking of the frontal lobes, here's a short history of the lobotomy. The lobotomy inventor, Walter Freeman, used an ice pick to carry out his gruesome procedure:
People often fainted when watching Walter Freeman at his peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Even the eminent Dr Edwin Zabriskie, a 74 year old who had been involved in hand-to-hand fighting in the First World War and was a clinical professor of neurology, was observed to crumple on to the carpet at the sight of Freeman in action.
Here's another lobotomy page that's a bit more stomach-turning. (But aren't all the pages at rotten.com stomach-turning?)