Via Ilkka I came across a blog called The Programmer’s Paradox, whose author claims he has refuted Cantor’s diagonalization argument through the discovery of a new mathematical object he calls “magic sequences“. Rather than that guy specifically, I’d like to talk about his general type. There are plenty of cranks out there who claim to have build perpetual motion machines, shown the age of the earth to be 6000 years or refuted all the claimed evidence for the Holocaust (more like Holohoax with a dollar sign thrown in somewhere, amirite?). If they’ve been polishing their crankery for a while, it can be somewhat intimidating for a skeptical layman to try to take them on. Not so for the armchair crank, there is just their argument in a short readable form. They probably don’t have any credentials or a bibliography to check out. This short argument is supposed to be revolutionary, totally upending an established field but people just hadn’t thought of it until now. Another example is the expositor of “Post-Austrian Economics”, whose wish to remain nameless will be upheld here. Standard economics these days can involve tricky empirical analyses and complicated models, but PAE rested on philosophy and even verged (explicitly!) toward theology. Finally, I’ll add mjgeddes through he implied I could get sued for calling him a crank. There’s something charmingly egalitarian about armchair cranks. Anyone can produce armchair crankery themselves and anyone argue with an armchair crank on a level playing field. As knowledge becomes more specialized there is less room for armchair crankery (Caledonian/melendwyr says philosophy is what is left over when actual knowledge becomes science), so perhaps we should enjoy it while it lasts.
Speaking of Ilkka, he appears to be on vacation again. Let’s hope it isn’t as long as the last one. Other news in blogdom is that The Money Illusion and the blog formerly known as The Austrian Economists have new urls.