«The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.»

Episodes

 

Don't buy books written by doctors is an idea I've had for awhile.

I'll ramble all over the road but the core thesis that I'll keep coming back to is that people have an ethical duty to themselves and society to have a decent and functioning bullshit detector (or what Carl Sagan would have more gently called a «baloney detector»).

It's already a bit dated but the example I like to give for what a bullshit detector is from President Obama’s 2012 election. A story was popularized where he said «you didn’t build that». This was taken to mean that business owners didn’t build their business. On hearing something like that, anyone with a functioning bullshit detector should immediately think - «something’s fishy there» and investigate. A few minutes later you’d know that he actually said that even if you worked hard and built your own business, other people built a lot of the technology and infrastructure that made it possible.

Similarly, there was a story around the same time that claimed that Mitt Romney drove with his dogs in a crate on the roof. Again, that should sound incredulous and ring your bullshit detector.. although, in this case, on investigating further you’d be shocked to learn that it was, in fact, true.

A bullshit detector isn’t a substitute for research. Even the best will miss some things and a good one will have its share of false alarms. It is, however, a compass - an essential tool to help us navigate the streams of information we encounter every day.

Despite the tongue-in-cheek name, I don't mean to imply that authority is meaningless. Rather, it's critical to put authority into the proper context. I've got a Ph.D. in physics and have taken all of the coursework for a Ph.D. in microbiology with emphasis on immunology and virology. That doesn't mean that I'm always right on any of those subjects, but it does make me a bit of an expert. We're not always right - especially when venturing outside of our expertise.. but we have put years into studying things and understanding their nuances and you spending a few hours reading Google and Wikipedia doesn't make you one.

~ Scott Menor