Your “Bullshit-Detector” Kit

10 DIY Hacks To Identify BS

Embracing Discomfort.


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Our brains are wired to admire stories and abhor logic. Because thinking burns calories. It takes effort. And our brains like to, wherever possible, take the path of least resistance. It’s just what we do.

This is why we need scepticism. And that’s why I’ve put together a simple, DIY “bullshit-detector”. It won’t work for all claims but should make you sceptical against a few.

1. Reality Is Not A Pattern

We are pattern reocognition machines. We see them everywhere — even when they don’t exist. Heard of people who find Jesus’ face in a potato? Well, that’s an example of pareidolia. We see what isn’t. Everywhere and every time.

Finding a pattern or solving the logic of a sequence does not mean we’e solved reality. Like, the skirt hemline theory that found a correlation between skirt lengths and the economy. Skirts are shorter when the economy gets better and vice versa. That’s a pattern. Not reality.

Bullshit Detection: When any claim is supported primarily by “pattern” based evidence, watch out — it’s probably bullshit.

Examples: Technical analysis of stocks, astrology.

2. Is It The Cause Or The Effect?

When analysing effects, are we sure we understand the cause? Do we wrongly attribute something as the effect of a cause when it’s actually the cause of an effect?

For example,

  • He’s stupid because he believes in fairytales. Or he believes in fairytales because he’s stupid?
  • Do fat people eat more or are they fat because they eat more?

We make value judgements constantly. But sometimes it’s worth stopping to consider if we understand the direction of causality before making up our minds.

Because there’s a good chance we don’t.

Bullshit Detection: When any claim is made, make sure you know if the claim is an effect or a cause.

Examples: “This movie will be epic — it has a phenomenal star cast”, Homoeopathy.

3. History (And Everything Else) Repeats Itself