Build Your Own Baloney Detector

A tool-kit for avoiding being fooled

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What a Baloney Detector Is Not

It’s worth thinking about what a Baloney Detector (BD) is and what it isn’t before really getting started.

One thing it is not is fool-proof. While your BD can tell you to worry or even to turn down an offer, it’s not the same as knowing something isn’t right. To really determine if an idea is correct (at least to current evidence), you need to fully research the idea and data pertaining to it. This is a time-consuming processes, however. Often, life doesn’t give us the chance to do do this before making a decision. Even when we do get that kind of time, we have to pick and chose what we research. Hence the BD.

A BD tells you to ask more questions. To be wary of claim. In a pinch, it may warn you say “No.” However, just because your BD doesn’t detect anything fishy, it doesn’t follow that nothing is wrong. A clever shyster can evade any set of rules you use to catch them, so don’t get overconfident.

In many ways, a BD is like a wrist-watch. Sure, there are clocks that keep more accurate time and there are clocks with many more features (like weather indicators). But a watch has a singular redeeming feature: it can go everywhere with you and is there when you need it. Your BD is the same way: it’s not as good as peer-reviewed research or being an expert in the field, but it is portable and easy to use with a variety of topics.

posted by John Weiss at 21:25  

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