Build Your Own Baloney Detector

A tool-kit for avoiding being fooled

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Welcome to Build Your Own Baloney Detector!

First of all, welcome to Build Your Own Baloney Detector. I hope you find this blog interesting, useful, or at least entertaining. I’ll try to make it all three, although I cannot make promises on the latter.

Of course, you’re probably wondering what this blog is all about. I’ll tell you. In A Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan talked about a “baloney detector kit” as a set of tools to figure out when something isn’t on the level. This could be because someone is lying to us or that they’re just confused themselves. It doesn’t matter, many of the tools carry over, regardless of whether the source means to mislead us.

That’s what this blog is about: tools you can use to at least begin to determine when you should be extra critical. (Sure, we should question everything, all the time. But practically speaking, that doesn’t work well. And it tends to offend friends and family when we ask for confirmation that they had tuna for lunch. Man, that’s a dinner conversation I’m glad I don’t have to repeat!)

There are a few types of posts I expect to be making:

  • Flags — Flags are warnings that something may be amiss. They’re not proof, they’re just little things that should cause concern.
  • Questions to Ask — Questions we can ask, either of others or of ourselves, to help us determine if a given idea is reasonable.
  • Examples — Examples of skepticism at work. I suspect many of these will be drawn from my own life, but I welcome hearing about your experiences.
  • Building Blocks — Some basic facts, figures, and science that may help you evaluate ideas you encounter.

Apart from that, we’ll have to see how this beast evolves. I may not have enough material to keep this up for a long time, but as long as I do, I hope you keep coming back.

posted by John Weiss at 16:33  

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