This website is undergoing Big Changes. The Crackpot Rant has been replaced by The Weekly Oracle. Sad to say, that means the Crackpot Scale and the commentary of experts in three related fields are no more. But really, not needed. The difference between a Crackpot and an Oracle, after all, is that although both traffic in visions of reality, or, as I call them, Big Ideas, Oracles are never wrong.
That’s where Oracles have it all over scientists as well. Quantum physicist and Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr once said: “Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.” Sure, because scientists have to prove their Big Ideas. They have to run experiments and submit the results of those experiments to peer review. Not so Oracles. If you ask the Oracle a question and her prediction doesn’t come true, it’s not her fault, it’s yours: you mis-interpreted her.
Take King Croesus, he of rich-as-Croesus-fame, who in the hey-dey of Oracledom, in the sixth century BC, asked the Delphic Oracle: “Should I make war on the Persians?”
“Do so,” said the Oracle, “and a mighty empire will be destroyed.”
“Aha!” said Croesus, “Mission Accomplished!” and off he went to what he thought was certain victory. It never occurred to him that the mighty empire to be destroyed was his.
Big Idea #1: Croesus was stuck in the wrong thought frame.
Just to be sure we’re on the same page: a thought-frame is like a mind-set or a paradigm: an integrated set of assumptions that tells us who we are, what we’re doing here and how we fit into the universe. Whew, now that we’ve got that settled, we can concentrate on more important things, like the Kardashians and the prevalence of zombies…or is that redundant?
After a while though, we forget that the thought-frame is based on assumptions; we think it’s actual reality. It hardens into ideology. So when things change and new information challenges “the way things are”, we perceive it as a threat. To our identity. To our integrity. To everything we were taught to believe.
What ensues is something Wikipedia calls “Paradigm Paralysis.” In the face of change, people deny the new information; they cling to old certainties. They look backwards. Towards the Founding Fathers. Towards the Bible. Towards Ayn Rand, for crying out loud. Gripped by fear of uncertainty, we lose our most precious asset, our imagination. We can no longer imagine a future, how we might adapt to change, how things could be.
Big Idea #2: America has paradigm paralysis.
So now you know why I became an Oracle. Not for fame and fortune, although, hello, reality TV: what could be more interesting than a woman who lives in a cave with a natural gas deposit whose fumes send her into a state of altered consciousness from whence she derives her hazy visions of the future and whose lover is the Sun God Apollo? Okay, maybe not that interesting and anyway, I live in a house in Berkeley where the Sun God rarely makes an appearance and all I’ve got going for me in the trance-inducing department is the Home Shopping Channel. Absent those perks, it’s all about the mission: to move America beyond its paralysis and into a new thought frame.
To accomplish that lofty aim, I’ll be using the same device scientists use to explore territory they don’t yet have the tools to analyze: a thought experiment. Only instead of figuring out how cats can be alive and dead (a famous thought experiment called “Schrodinger’s Cat” which wouldn’t be so famous if Schrodinger had remembered that cats have nine lives), my thought experiment consists of a simple question:
“What if everything you’d been told was true turned out not to be?”