The Baloney Detection Kit

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One of the lessons taught to me and so many children was to believe in authority figures and what they said. They knew what they were talking about. They had the job or education to back up what they thought, believed or said and we were not to argue. Can you tell my parents were from the generation of people who happily said “children should be seen and not heard“.

I recently watched the video The Baloney Detection Kit courtesy of the website Brain Pickings and thought, “I wish this was taught when I went to school”.  Skeptic Magazine editor Michael Shermer is the host of the 15 minute video, closed captions included, and is produced by The Richard Dawkins Foundation and Michael Shermer.

At the beginning of the video, Shermer asks “How do you know if something is right or wrong? How do you know?”. His answer is to not automatically believe anybody based on whatever position of authority they may have  but to check it out yourself. Shermer asks 10 questions to consider and gives an example with each question on how to reach your own conclusion when someone makes a claim.

It’s a quick, interesting video that I believe should be passed on to both children and adults. As children, we were taught what to think, not how to think. Now, there is so much information coming at us from so many sources. You can usually find a group that makes a claim,  a group who tries to criticize,  disprove or demean the claim and everybody in between. Below are the 10 questions discussed in the video to help that can help us reach our own conclusions.

1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
2.Does the source make similar claims?
3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?