Okay, maybe Hubbard isn’t really in a zombie movie, but he is expected to return, and if he’s picking up one of those “past lives,” he’ll have to bring in some top-notch makeup artists to work through that whole decomposition issue. It could happen. Prove me wrong.

The entré for today’s post is a short study in character analysis. The outline for this study comes to us from Martin Gardner (1983–2010), a contemporary of L. Ron Hubbard and well-known for his authorship on the topics of mathematics, science, philosophy of science, theology, and magic. Gardner spent 25 years during his long career as a columnist at Scientific American, which started in 1956, and was a favorite contributor of articles on tricks, puzzles, and science for the Physics Teacher for 12 years.

The year Gardner passed, Karl Giberson, a contributor to the Huffington Post’s “Religion Blog” wrote…

On May 22, one of America’s most interesting minds and engaging writers passed. Martin Gardner possessed a unique combination of literary breadth, rigorous logic, mathematical intuition, and lively, engaging writing.

Gardner is a delightful paradox. Best known as a hard-nosed, card-carrying, take-no-prisoners skeptic, he cleverly and ruthlessly exposed the fakery of faith healing, spoon-bending, alien abducting, mind-palm-tarot-card reading, holocaust denying, and every other imaginable pseudoscience.

Gardner is often referred to as the founder of the modern skeptical movement. Together with the likes of magician James Randi, psychologist Ray Hyman, and others they formed the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. It principally promoted scientific thinking and the application of science and reason to important public issues. The Committee began a publication in 1976, Skeptical Inquirer, for which Gardner was a key contributor.

In 1952, Gardner published “In the Name of Science: An Entertaining Survey of the High Priests and Cultists of Science, Past and Present.” It’s all in there … Flat and hollow — Monsters of doom — The Forteans — Flying saucers — Zig-zag-and-swirl — Down with Einstein! — Sir Isaac Babson — Dowsing rods and doodlebugs — Under the microscope — Geology versus Genesis — Lysenkoism — Apologists for hate — Atlantis and Lemuria — The Great Pyramid — Medical cults — Medical quacks — Food faddists — Throw away your glasses! — Eccentric sexual theories — Orgonomy — Dianetics — General semantics, etc. — From bumps to handwriting — ESP and PK — Bridley Murphy and other matters. It would be later republished as “Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.” (the 2nd Edition is available as a PDF download here)

Central to the theme of Gardner’s book is his character study of those who are the purveyors of pseudosciences and cult beliefs … the “cranks,” as described in Wikipedia.

I’ll take “FAMOUS CRANKS” for $500, Alex.

Gardner says that cranks have two common characteristics. The first “and most important” is that they work in almost total isolation from the scientific community. Gardner defines the community as an efficient network of communication within scientific fields, together with a co-operative process of testing new theories. This process allows for apparently bizarre theories to be published — such as Einstein’s theory of relativity, which initially met with considerable opposition; it was never dismissed as the work of a crackpot, and it soon met with almost universal acceptance. But the crank “stands entirely outside the closely integrated channels through which new ideas are introduced and evaluated. He does not send his findings to the recognized journals or, if he does, they are rejected for reasons which in the vast majority of cases are excellent.

The following character analysis is so accurate, it could easily be uploaded to L. Ron Hubbard’s LinkedIn account if he had one. The primary trait of the crank (which also contributes to his or her isolation) is the tendency to paranoia. There are five ways in which this tendency is likely to be manifested.

1. The pseudo-scientist considers himself a genius.
2. He regards other researchers as stupid, dishonest or both.
3. He believes there is a campaign against his ideas, a campaign comparable to the persecution of Galileo or Pasteur. He may attribute his “persecution” to a conspiracy by a scientific “masonry” who are unwilling to admit anyone to their inner sanctum without appropriate initiation.
4. Instead of side-stepping the mainstream, the pseudo-scientist attacks it head-on: The most revered scientist is Einstein so Gardner writes that Einstein is the most likely establishment figure to be attacked.
5. He has a tendency to use complex jargon, often making up words and phrases. Gardner compares this to the way that schizophrenics talk in what psychiatrists call “neologisms”, “words which have meaning to the patient, but sound like Jabberwocky to everyone else.”

These psychological traits are in varying degrees demonstrated throughout the remaining chapters of the book, in which Gardner examines particular “fads” he labels pseudo-scientific. His writing became the source book from which many later studies of pseudo-science were taken.

The icing on the cake for this post is Gardner’s review of Russell Miller’s “Bare-Faced Messiah,” published in 1987. He does little meandering in the first paragraph before lowering the hammer on L. Ron Hubbard…

Hubbard was a deeply disturbed man — a pathological liar who steadily deteriorated from a charming rogue into a paranoid egomaniac “unable to distinguish”, as Miller puts it, “between fact and his own fantastic fiction”.

And now Gardner trades in his roofing hammer for a jackhammer…

Almost everything Ron ever said about himself was false. He was never a swashbuckling explorer or distinguished naval officer. Although he claimed to be a physicist, his knowledge of science was negligible. His father, a lieutenant-commander in the US Navy, had hoped his son would pursue a similar career, but near-sightedness kept Ron out of Annapolis. His only education was in the engineering school of George Washington University where he dropped out after two years of dismal grades.

Gardner closes with every cult researcher’s nagging question about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology…

How could a man this crazy have lived to 74 without being committed?

How could a science-fiction cult, with such preposterous doctrines and evil morals, continue to flourish?

There is a church website actually named “WhatIsScientology.org.” In stands as a monument to galactic-level irony because, this is the last question you get to ask before your fruitless journey “Up The Bridge.”