PDA

View Full Version : Baloney Detection Kit



Wiley
2001-Nov-13, 03:51 PM
As many of you know, in Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan described a "baloney detection kit", a method for distuingishing science from psuedoscience. Michael Shermer has expanded on these ideas in his last two columns for Scientific American.

Fortunately for you non-subscribers, they are available on the web.

November's column (http://www.sciam.com/2001/1101issue/1101skeptic.html)
December's column (http://www.sciam.com/2001/1201issue/1201skeptic.html)

Enjoy.

DStahl
2001-Nov-13, 09:06 PM
Thanks! Check also John Baez' Crackpot Index for scoring of revolutionary (read: loony) physics theories. It's at math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html)

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: DStahl on 2001-11-13 16:09 ]</font>

Iain Lambert
2001-Nov-14, 09:31 AM
Arrgh! Spoilers! I'm only 7 chapters into The Demon Haunted World, don't tell me what happens!

/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif

Matherly
2001-Nov-14, 12:09 PM
Well this didn't help me at all.

I read the article several times and I still can't find the balony, or any other lunch meat, in my supermarket.


_________________
The poster formerly known as Carl Matherly

(Edited to to a missing negative that changed my meaning. D'oh}

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Matherly on 2001-11-14 07:32 ]</font>

GrapesOfWrath
2001-Nov-14, 12:29 PM
Matherly

Go back and look for bologna (I know, I know, but it works).

Matherly
2001-Nov-14, 12:33 PM
{Carl smacks his head, ala Bull from Night Court}

OF COURSE

{Carl quickly scurries away on a quest for lunch meat}

GrapesOfWrath
2001-Nov-14, 12:49 PM
On 2001-11-14 07:33, Matherly wrote:
Carl smacks
I think you mispelled "snacks"

Now that I've taken care of that fundamental human need, we can go on to the higher philosophies. I think we can sum up Shermer's list of ten baloney detectors as (note: fair use!):

1. How reliable is the claimant?
2. Do they make similar claims?
3. Are the claims verified by others?
4. How does it fit with other knowledge?
5. Have they tried to disprove it?
6. How does the preponderance of evidence compare?
7. Have accepted rules of reason been followed?
8. Is the claim just a denial of an existing explanation?
9. Is the new claim better than the old explanation?
10. Are the claimant's personal beliefs involved?

Of course, as they always say, give a man a list, and he'll say his is longer. So, I think we can add the following:

11. Does the claimant allege a conspiracy against the claim?
12. Does the claimant appeal to common sense?
13. Does the claimant use a lot of smiley faces?

<font size=-1>[Changed "feces" to "faces"--go figure.</font> <font size=-2>And "Has" to "Have"]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: GrapesOfWrath on 2001-11-14 08:30 ]</font>

SeanF
2001-Nov-14, 01:07 PM
On 2001-11-14 07:49, GrapesOfWrath wrote:

7. Has accepted rules of reason been followed?



Has accepted rules of grammar been followed?

(Sorry, GoW -- fundamental human need . . .) /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif

Iain Lambert
2001-Nov-14, 01:39 PM
As I mentioned in another thread, I'd like to add

14. Does the claimant use the caps shift key excessively?

While its hardly a proper argument against a claim, it does tend to denote the people who feel the need to rant, rather than explain their claim sensibly. Don't you AGREE? /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif

GrapesOfWrath
2001-Nov-14, 05:55 PM
I...ah...don't know what you're talking about. (Kicks has under the rug, steps on it)

15. Claimant brags about not understanding "that gobblygook".

Ducost
2001-Dec-07, 02:52 PM
On 2001-11-14 07:49, GrapesOfWrath wrote:


On 2001-11-14 07:33, Matherly wrote:
Carl smacks
I think you mispelled "snacks"



Carl snacks his head??

Valiant Dancer
2001-Dec-07, 04:09 PM
On 2001-12-07 09:52, Ducost wrote:


On 2001-11-14 07:49, GrapesOfWrath wrote:


On 2001-11-14 07:33, Matherly wrote:
Carl smacks
I think you mispelled "snacks"



Carl snacks his head??



That sounds like it would hurt.

ToSeek
2001-Dec-07, 04:59 PM
This reminds me of the Crackpot index (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html) scoring test originally developed on Usenet. Some examples:

8.5 points for each mention of "Einstien", "Hawkins" or "Feynmann".
19.20 points for suggesting that you deserve a Nobel prize.
24.20 points for each use of the phrase "self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy".
29.40 points for claiming that the "scientific establishment" is engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.

DStahl
2001-Dec-08, 04:39 AM
ToSeek--I linked to a version of that higher up in the posts. It's fun.

ToSeek
2001-Dec-10, 03:41 PM
On 2001-12-07 23:39, DStahl wrote:
ToSeek--I linked to a version of that higher up in the posts. It's fun.


Oops - didn't notice that.

Wiley
2001-Dec-11, 10:57 PM
Many people have added to Michael Shermer's list, and I think it's time we pause and review our current list.

The original ten questions of balogna detection are (as summarized by Grapes):

1. How reliable is the claimant?
2. Do they make similar claims?
3. Are the claims verified by others?
4. How does it fit with other knowledge?
5. Have they tried to disprove it?
6. How does the preponderance of evidence compare?
7. Have accepted rules of reason been followed?
8. Is the claim just a denial of an existing explanation?
9. Is the new claim better than the old explanation?
10. Are the claimant's personal beliefs involved?

The addenda to this list currently stands as

11. Does the claimant allege a conspiracy against the claim? (GoW)
12. Does the claimant appeal to common sense?(GoW)
13. Does the claimant use a lot of smiley faces? (GoW)
14. Does the claimant use the caps shift key excessively? (Lambert)
15. Does the claimant brag about not understanding "that gobblygook"? (GoW)

I suggest the following:

16. Are the claims actually testable?
17. Does the claimant seek special dispensation from congress?
18a. Does the claimant compare himself to Einstein?
18b. Does the claimant continually remind us the Einstein was a patent clerk?
19a. Is the claimant selling something?
19b. Are there associated infomercials?

Comments, suggestions, and benevolent criticisms are welcome.

DStahl
2001-Dec-12, 07:31 AM
This may fall under "selling something" but I would suggest that if the claimant is promoting a self-published book (aka a "vanity press" book) then this is another black mark.

Wyz_sub10
2001-Dec-13, 07:57 PM
A must-read if you enjoy critical analysis of "baloney" is Robert Park's "Voodoo Science".

Park talks about free energy and the like, but more importantly, talks about *why* people are so quick to buy in to these ideas, and how many times these "baloney vendors" are not malicious but misguided.

BTW, Sagan's book was simply terrific.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Wyz_sub10 on 2001-12-13 14:58 ]</font>

Wiley
2001-Dec-13, 08:58 PM
On 2001-12-12 02:31, DStahl wrote:
This may fall under "selling something" but I would suggest that if the claimant is promoting a self-published book (aka a "vanity press" book) then this is another black mark.


I had two specific things in mind under "selling something": 1.) Joe Newman selling his book for $79.95 not including shipping, and 2.) "quick fat burning" weight loss supplements. This quickly led to Miss Clio (spelling?) and the Psychic Hotline; hence the "infomercial" part.

Wiley
2001-Dec-13, 09:14 PM
On 2001-12-13 14:57, Wyz_sub10 wrote:
A must-read if you enjoy critical analysis of "baloney" is Robert Park's "Voodoo Science".

Park talks about free energy and the like, but more importantly, talks about *why* people are so quick to buy in to these ideas, and how many times these "baloney vendors" are not malicious but misguided.

BTW, Sagan's book was simply terrific.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Wyz_sub10 on 2001-12-13 14:58 ]</font>


Agreed. Robert Park's "Voodoo Science" is a must read. (I suspect most regulars of this forum already have a copy on their bookshelf, and those that don't should go out and buy it now.)

In addition I recommend:
1.) Martin Gardner's "Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science"
2.) Browne & Keeley "Asking the Right Questions"
3.) Plait's "Bad Astronomy"

(Yes, the last book is just a blatant suckup to the forum host. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif)

Mr. X
2001-Dec-13, 10:25 PM
3.) Plait's "Bad Astronomy"
Argh! Ah! Oh! Oh! You professional butt-kisser! /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

Forgive me because I am still in shock after seeing such an attempt suck up to someone! /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

Such 31337 mastery of lickspittle skills is baffling! /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

The Bad Astronomer
2001-Dec-13, 10:47 PM
(Yes, the last book is just a blatant suckup to the forum host. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif)


You are assuming I read all these threads.

Actually, I haven't read Parks' book yet. I haven't heard him talk, either, despite living about 10 km from him for five years. I was always on travel, or ill, or whatever, when he spoke. Very annoying! Anyway, I have a list of books to get, and his is one.

Chip
2001-Dec-14, 12:22 AM
On 2001-12-13 16:14, Wiley wrote:
"....In addition I recommend:
1.) Martin Gardner's "Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science"
2.) Browne & Keeley "Asking the Right Questions"
3.) Plait's "Bad Astronomy"..."


To this and the great Sagan books, I'd like to add:

John Casti: Paradigms Lost: Tackling the Unanswered Mysteries of Modern Science

He's also written a sequel: Paradigms Lost and Found

Casti looks critically at generally accepted but non-mainstream topics such as alien life, self aware computers, and other unproven theories that are nevertheless much discussed, etc...

DStahl
2001-Dec-14, 04:47 AM
"I had two specific things in mind under "selling something": 1.) Joe Newman selling his book for $79.95 not including shipping..."

Exactly what I had in mind also. Consider my suggestion redundant.

Chip
2001-Dec-15, 08:10 AM
On 2001-12-11 17:57, Wiley wrote:
Many people have added to Michael Shermer's list, and I think it's time we pause and review our current list.

The original ten questions of balogna detection are (as summarized by Grapes):

1. How reliable is the claimant?
2. Do they make similar claims?
3. Are the claims verified by others?
4. How does it fit with other knowledge?
5. Have they tried to disprove it?
6. How does the preponderance of evidence compare?
7. Have accepted rules of reason been followed?
8. Is the claim just a denial of an existing explanation?
9. Is the new claim better than the old explanation?
10. Are the claimant's personal beliefs involved?

The addenda to this list currently stands as

11. Does the claimant allege a conspiracy against the claim? (GoW)
12. Does the claimant appeal to common sense?(GoW)
13. Does the claimant use a lot of smiley faces? (GoW)
14. Does the claimant use the caps shift key excessively? (Lambert)
15. Does the claimant brag about not understanding "that gobblygook"? (GoW)

I suggest the following:

16. Are the claims actually testable?
17. Does the claimant seek special dispensation from congress?
18a. Does the claimant compare himself to Einstein?
18b. Does the claimant continually remind us the Einstein was a patent clerk?
19a. Is the claimant selling something?
19b. Are there associated infomercials?

Comments, suggestions, and benevolent criticisms are welcome.


You realize that a clever person could take all the points listed by the folks here, and use them as guidelines to writing a "best selling" sensationalistic book for the general public. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_eek.gif

If they were clever, they could also write it with a sense of humor. If exposed and debunked, they could then say: "It was all a joke." ( = more sales!) /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

GrapesOfWrath
2001-Dec-15, 01:55 PM
On 2001-12-13 19:22, Chip wrote:
To this and the great Sagan books, I'd like to add:
Well, to be fair, he also said: "The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that his hypotheses were wrong or in contradiction to firmly established facts, but that some who called themselves scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky's work. Science is generated by and devoted to free inquiry: the idea that any hypothesis, no matter how strange, deserves to be considered on its own merits. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no place in the endeavor of science. We do not know in advance who will discover fundamental new insights. (Carl Sagan, in Cosmos)

Chip
2001-Dec-15, 06:30 PM
On 2001-12-15 08:55, GrapesOfWrath wrote:


On 2001-12-13 19:22, Chip wrote:
To this and the great Sagan books, I'd like to add:
Well, to be fair, he also said: "The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that his hypotheses were wrong or in contradiction to firmly established facts, but that some who called themselves scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky's work. Science is generated by and devoted to free inquiry: the idea that any hypothesis, no matter how strange, deserves to be considered on its own merits. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no place in the endeavor of science. We do not know in advance who will discover fundamental new insights. (Carl Sagan, in Cosmos)


======

Hi GrapesOfWrath,

You wrote: "Well, to be fair, he also said:..."

How am I being unfair? I really do think the late Carl Sagan's books are great.

BTW, Albert Einstein and Immanuel Velikovsky exchanged some very cordial letters. Einstein didn't agree with Velikovsky's ideas but their exchange in letters is a lesson in respect and good manners.

It can be found here: http://www.varchive.org/cor/einstein/index.htm

Einstein's letters were written in German. If one scrolls down after opening them, English translations are also found.

Chip

GrapesOfWrath
2001-Dec-16, 01:58 AM
No, no, not you not fair. I mean, Sagan was trying to be fair. He wasn't just anti-crank.

Except, apparently, if you have read Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1561840750/ref=ase_avsearch-bkasin-20/103-0720943-8706257) by Charles Ginenthal, which I have not. Check out the reviews.

<font size=-1>[Added amazon.com book reviews]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: GrapesOfWrath on 2001-12-15 21:07 ]</font>

Chip
2001-Dec-16, 09:47 PM
On 2001-12-15 20:58, GrapesOfWrath wrote:
No, no, not you not fair. I mean, Sagan was trying to be fair. He wasn't just anti-crank.

Except, apparently, if you have read Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1561840750/ref=ase_avsearch-bkasin-20/103-0720943-8706257) by Charles Ginenthal, which I have not. Check out the reviews.

<font size=-1>[Added amazon.com book reviews]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: GrapesOfWrath on 2001-12-15 21:07 ]</font>


Hello there,

OK sorry, my misinterpretation of what you said.

Yes, I remember reading in Carl Sagan - A Life by Keay Davidson, there was something about Sagan's impatience with Velikovsky during their debate. It might have also been the effect of the Sagan vs. Velikovsky supporters who were both present during the debate, rather than what the men were debating about. Both groups of their fans came away claiming victory.

As far as fans go, I'm in the Sagan camp. They say he had his faults and sometimes rubbed people the wrong way, but he also did so much for bringing science appreciation and understanding to the general public.

Wiley
2001-Dec-17, 05:31 PM
On 2001-12-15 03:10, Chip wrote:

You realize that a clever person could take all the points listed by the folks here, and use them as guidelines to writing a "best selling" sensationalistic book for the general public. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_eek.gif

If they were clever, they could also write it with a sense of humor. If exposed and debunked, they could then say: "It was all a joke." ( = more sales!) /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif



Kinda like L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology? /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif