Crackpot test

A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to the Study of Shakespeare's Authorship:1

  • A -5 point starting credit. 
  • 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false. 
  • 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
  • 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent. 
  • 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction. 
  • 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted hypothesis. 
  • 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards). 
  • 5 points for each mention of "Looney", "Ogburn" or "Sobran". 
  • 10 points for implying the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is funding orthodox scholarship to your detriment.
  • 10 points for each claim that orthodox scholarship is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence). 
  • 10 points for claiming any late romance as an Elizabethan play.
  • 10 points for every claim that an explicit historical fact is 'ambiguous'.
  • 10 points for mentioning your qualifications or previous work, as if this were evidence of sanity. 
  • 10 points for any description in your theory saying how long you have been working on it.
  • 10 points for mailing your theory to someone you don't know personally and asking them not to tell anyone else about it. 
  • 10 points for assuming marks in margins are made by an individual or at a specific time without supporting evidence.  (Each instance)
  • 10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly defining it. 
  • 10 points for each statement along the lines of "I'm not good at math, but my theory is conceptually right". 
  • 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it. 
  • 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory explains events or data correctly, it fails to explain points which are only relevant to your theory. 
  • 10 points for every cipher that has been revealed by following the plain text back to the code rather than the reverse
  • 10 points for every contention that the word 'ever' is code for the surname 'Vere'.
  • 10 points for every explanation of the phrase 'Swan of Avon' that does not refer to the River Avon (and another 20 for confusing it with Afon)
  • 10 points for each favourable comparison of yourself to a tenured English professor, or claim that his or her work is fundamentally misguided. 
  • 20 points for each tree claimed as a grove and each plane tree claimed as a sycamore. 
  • 20 points for emailing me and complaining about the crackpot index. 
  • 20 points for suggesting that you deserve more widespread recognition. 
  • 20 points for each favourable comparison of yourself to Chambers or claim that orthodox dating is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence). 
  • 20 points for every use of claims of success or acceptance of your theory as if they were fact. 
  • 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories. (Each instance)
  • 20 points for asserting your claims as a scholar. (20 more if you don't know whether the person you are demeaning might have better claims). 
  • 20 points for attributing false educational or legal qualifications to your candidate. 
  • 20 points for talking about how great your theory is, without fully explaining it. 
  • 20 points for each use of the phrase "hidebound reactionary". 
  • 20 points for each suggestion that Venus & Adonis and Lucrece are dangerously satirical.
  • 30 points for each use of the phrase "self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy". 
  • 30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported.
  • 30 points for every time you mention how many Amazon review stars your book got.
  • 30 points for attributing works of genius to infant prodigies.
  • 30 points for suggesting that previous orthodox scholars were groping their way towards the ideas you now advocate. 
  • 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an extraterrestrial civilization. 
  • 30 points for allusions or references to the psychiatrist who tried to talk you out of your theory. 
  • 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts. 
  • 40 points for claiming that the "academic establishment" is engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike. 
  • 50 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on. 
  • 50 points for each claim based on a Sonnet of which you have only read two lines.
  • 50 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day scholarship will be seen for the sham it truly is. 
  • 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.
  • 75 points for each fictional character, play-broker or new poet you are required to invent.
  • 75 points for mentioning any offspring of a European monarch unknown to history and relating it to your authorship candidate
  • 75 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a "paradigm shift".
  • 75 points for claiming that other academics agree with you unconsciously. 

1. With the humblest apologies to John Baez, who wrote the original and applied it to physics. The fact that half of the ratings points are almost unchanged does, however, rather highlight the way that  different academic fields are plagued by the same kind of unscholarly, half-assed heresy.

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Comments (2)

  • anon

    There are no  simple methods for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to the Study of Shakespeare's Authorship:

    Keeping  in mind that for hundreds of years, there is a unique Shakespeare authorship problem,  this  inevitably leads to the question of how such a unique situation could arise and why it could not be solved  until today. One can postulate with considerable plausibility, that there has to be a  unique difficulty which prevented  "400 years of collective intelligence" to unravel the mystery.

    The unusual problem  is reminiscent of the  hundreds of years of attempts to prove  Fermat's conjecture (the french Mathematician Pierre de Fermat). During the centuries the world was convinced that there must be a solution! The solution was finally found in 1994 and it  required about 100  pages.

    It tells us that some  assumptions can not be proven more simple. You may  transfer this analogy to the solution of the conjecture of the equation  

                                        Shakespeare [playwright]  ≠  Shakespeare [Stratford]

    Mar 22, 2014
  • anon

    Fermat's Last theorem was only known through its conclusion and massive changes and improvements to mathematical technqiue were required to prove what Fermat had notionally concluded. Riemann's Hypothesis is used in everday mathematical practice yet still lacks a proof because of the extreme complexity that lies within it. These are both examples of problems which have exercised the whole of the mathematical Academy for many years.


    Mathematical proofs are problems which baffle everyone until they are solved and bear no relation to so-called authorship problems which are built out of speculation and ignorance. The only mystery in the Authorship Question is why so many seemingly intelligent people have spent so much time creating a problem where none exists.

    May 27, 2014