Sometimes, people pass around untrue information. It’s often hard to disagree with a nice person or a person in authority when they seem so sure that what they are telling you is true.
Say, for example, one day you are listening to the radio or television and someone tells you that the astronauts never went to the moon and the whole moon landing was faked. For you, that would be a very surprising thing for someone to tell you since you’ve seen videos of the moon landings and heard interviews with the astronauts. Perhaps you have read books about the NASA missions to the moon in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Perhaps you’ve even been to a museum and have seen the battered part of the spacecraft that splashed into the ocean upon returning the astronauts to Earth. You would probably think, “This guy is full of it,” or “This guy is full of baloney.” You would be right!
Baloney, phony baloney, and full of baloney are all words and phrases used to describe something as nonsense, silly, misleading, or untrue.
In his book, The Demon Haunted World, Dr. Carl Sagan wrote a list of steps he called the Baloney Detection Kit to think through when you hear or learn of some information that you suspect is untrue. Here is a link to Carl Sagan’s original Baloney Detection Kit on his official web site.
The original BDK has a lot of big words and phrases that may be unfamiliar to you. Dr. Michael Shermer kindly made a Baloney Detection Kit video that is a little easier to understand and he simplifies the basic ideas of BDK into 10 questions you can use to decide whether something is true or baloney.
Did you catch that? That college professor is asking you to think for yourself because even authorities with impressive credentials like him are sometimes wrong. That’s good advice.
The Ten Questions
- How reliable is the source of the claim?
- Does the source make similar claims?
- Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
- Does this fit with the way the world works?
- Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
- Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
- Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
- Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
- Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
- Are personal beliefs driving the claim?
Important words from the video and The Ten Questions are:
A claim is an unproven statement that something is true.
A claimant is someone who makes a claim.
Something that has been proven true or possible is verified.
Preponderance, at its simplest, means largest amount.
Evidence is proof used to judge whether something is true.
Direct evidence is actual straightforward proof of a claim.
A Theory is something that is accepted as true that is meant to explain something.
Phenomena are facts, events, or states of being that can be seen, watched, noticed, or observed.