The Buddhist Blogger’s Crackpot Scale

While trolling the atheist forums (OK it was P.Z. Meyers Pharyngula blog) trying to interject some serious idol worshiping fanaticism into the discussion…oh wait that’s what I was accused of despite being in agreement with most of the major and quite a few of the minor points of my frighteningly free thinking, or make that loose minded attacker, which is the only word for said individual, who seemed to be interested in fighting with anyone for any reason to the point of making contradictory statements in every second comment and even within the same comment, I came across a link to the following  which struck me as a useful method to evaluate blog writer’s efforts and commenters reactions and counter reactions.

[122 words in that sentence…still working on out-wording David Foster Wallace]

The Crackpot Index A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics” was written by John Baez, a mathematical physicist, in the late 1990s.

2008-05-marriage.jpgThe original crackpot index was about physics theories and quite a few criteria were specific to that.

There are many such ratings indexes and scales for all kinds of measurements. These would include the Unintentional Comedy Rating listing via ESPN,  the 1930’s rating scale on marital relations (image of the first page of wife’s rating criteria depicted to the left-here’s the whole thing on a flikr slideshow) and the serious discipline of humor studies are full of measurement scales as exemplified in such articles as The Situational Humor Response Questionnaire (SHRQ) and Coping Humor Scale (CHS): A decade of research findings or the indubitable  Weird Pet Products Ratings which includes sex dolls for dogs at #1.

Having also spent more time than I wish to remember constructing and administering surveys, measurement instruments, ratings scales and interpreting their subsequent rating criteria to fulfill various class requirements and later work projects it would be a shame to let such knowledge and skill sit idle.

So I’ve decided to make a completely derivative work based on these to assist in evaluating the usefulness and coherence of various utterings that appear on the Internet by self-labeled Buddhists. It might also do well as a checklist against one’s own convoluted musings, including mine.

This can be used to evaluate blogs, comments, articles, Facebook notes and even Twitter.  I can also think of a few mainstream Buddhist publications that might want to include it in their editorial policies. The higher the score the closer to woo one gets. 

  • A -5 point starting credit. Might as well keep this one as there will be some who can use all the advantages they can get.
  • 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false. This includes fake Buddha quotes, popular interpretations of secondary interpretations of poor translations of original Buddhist writings, blatant historical inaccuracies and distortions.
  • 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous. “Because you and I don’t exist” is not an excuse for anything.
  • 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent. A contradiction is a contradiction no matter how many times one quotes the Heart Sutra as a defense.
  • 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction. Stubbornness is not one of the paramitas.
  • 5 points for using a personal theory that contradicts the results of actual scholarship, practice, doctrine and general consensual reality. This would include such things as astral travelers whispering new sutras about the dharma of Lady Gaga to you while you sleep.
  • 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).
  • 5 points for each mention of "Chopra", "Tolle" or "saw that on Oprah".
  • 10 points for each claim that quantum mechanics is the foundation of Buddhist philosophy.
  • 10 points for pointing out that you have read a lot of books, or conversely not read a lot of books and are relying on “knowledge beyond doctrine”, as if either were evidence of any kind for unsupportable hypotheses.
  • 10 points for repeatedly underscoring your viewpoint by saying how long you have been working on it. (10 more for emphasizing that you worked completely on your own.)
  • 10 points for emailing your theory to Brad Warner and asking him to co-author a book with you while also asking him not to tell anyone else about it, for fear that your ideas will be stolen.  Maybe 5 more points for each time you email Brad Warner in general on Zen matters, unless you are a friend of his, particularly because he has stated about a million times that he doesn’t teach dharma on his blog or by email, Skype or any way other than face to face. And even then he doesn’t want to be known as a teacher.
  • 10 points for each new Buddhist term you invent and use without properly defining it.
  • 10 points for each statement along the lines of "I’m not good at Buddhist scholarship, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in Pali, because everything written in Pali is true".
  • 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it. Whatever one is putting forward by way of counter-theory is also “only a theory”.
  • 10 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Buddha, Dogen, Nansen, Nagarjuna, any dakini or Hindu diety. 10 more points for every utterance of “We are all Buddhas” to try to get people to take you seriously
  • 10 points for having an online pseudonym that includes the word Buddha unless that is part of your ordination name when you became a priest or monk.
  • 10 points for a claim that large portions of Buddhist philosophy are fundamentally misguided without providing any operative definitions of the terms in use or evidence beyond personal opinion of what these mean. This includes claims regarding karma (Hindu or Buddhist version), rebirth (literal or ontological self-see Philosophy of Self), structure of consciousness and so on.
  • 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a "global consciousness shift" or the result of some apocalyptic prophecy.
  • 20 points for emailing me and complaining that this post is an attempt to "suppress original thinkers"
  • 20 points for using Buddhism as the new Satanism. This means Buddhism is used primarily to bash Christianity due to the author’s own unresolved issues with that religion.
  • 20 points for suggesting gender/race/class/nationality/language has anything to do with validity of Buddhist practice. This includes the “modernization” of “ancient” viewpoints.
  • 20 points for suggesting that you deserve a Nobel Peace prize for your compassionate viewpoint or engaged Buddhist activity. 
  • 20 points for every act of fake iconoclasm (see Ikkyu) used to look cool to your readers
  • 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.
  • 20 points for advocating sexy haiku as Zen. 20 more points if you write a post about it in elephant journal
  • 20 points for naming something after yourself. (E.g., talking about the "The New Smith-Jones Sutra Study Course" when your name happens to be Smith, Jones or Smith-Jones.)
  • 20 points for talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it.
  • 20 points for each use of the phrase "self-appointed defender of Buddhism" to describe yourself or others.
  • 20 points for every time you used a quote from Basho to try to get in a sexual conversation on Twitter
  • 30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported. (E.g., that Dogen was a closet opponent of zazen, as deduced by reading between the lines in an interpretive translation of the Shobogenzo.)
  • 30 points for claiming to be a monk without having been fully ordained. 50 more points if you use this to get laid. 500 points if you are fully ordained and use that to get laid.
  • 30 points for suggesting that Buddhaghosa, Bodhidharma or any other historical figure, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate. ie “If Bodhidharma were here I’m sure he’d agree with me.” 10 bonus points for writing this on the IDP blog or in elephant journal
  • 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an extraterrestrial civilization (without good evidence) or in concert with Sammy Hagar who claims to be a recent abductee.
  • 40 points for living in a yurt in the desert and you are not Mongolian. 40 more if you live with a sexually desirable individual but claim a chaste relationship. 40 more if you say you also practice esoteric tantra with that individual. 40 more if you have a legion of followers who are Sex and the City wannabes.
  • 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, storm troopers, pinkos, rabid feminists or calling detractors retarded or psychotic . The Tea Party gathering is down the hall only slightly to your right.
  • 40 points if you play a sitar, live in Rishikesh India and claim to be the reincarnation of Ananda
  • 40 points if you commit arson and claim it was a practice of Shingon fire rituals. Additional 10 points if you put the pictures on your blog.
  • 40 points for claiming that the "Buddhist establishment" or “minions of dharmic orthodoxy” are engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame.
  • 40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, Asian Buddhism will be seen as the sham it truly is. (30 more points for fantasizing about feature articles in Tricycle in which those who mocked your theories will be forced to recant.)
  • 40 points for claiming that Buddhist theory proves science wrong
  • 50 points for every narcissistic claim that this post is about you personally

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge. – Bertrand Russell

By NellaLou Tagged

9 comments on “The Buddhist Blogger’s Crackpot Scale

  1. On a second reading, I think there might be a couple missing from the list. How about…

    * 1 point for every time you point out a real or imaginary virtue you like others to think you have, in connection with your Buddhism (e.g. vegetarianism/veganism, sexual abstinence, taking care of your physical condition, regular bowel movements)
    * 20 points for appealing to a tradition or lineage for legitimacy, while simultaneously deriding said tradition or lineage as it actually exists for having Gone All Wrong and being pretty much useless
    * 30 points for posting a photo of yourself in vaguely Buddhist apparel without having the ordination that goes with it (plus 10 extra points per tradition, if mixing apparel from different traditions, e.g. 20 points for mixing a Tibetan hat with a Theravadin robe)
    * 40 points for appropriating an established Buddhist term and using it to brand something you claim to have invented or developed (e.g. True Self Zen™, Karuna Path™)

  2. What, no points for profusely using the term “integral” at every opportunity in every context?

    Or for spewing a word salad of Wilberisms as proof I’ve evolved to a higher level?


    Well, at least I’ve earned 5 points for those new sutras about the dharma of Lady Gaga. Woohoo!

  3. L . . . O . . . L!

    People write / do these things? I mean, I guess that makes sense, but damn. So, when you slog through all this woo do you occasionally find some gems of helpful insights? Or are these usually pretty tangential — in other words, clearly marked and consistent in their woo?

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