Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Get ready ... for a lot of bullshit!

Ah, yes, after this topic, which is about the certainty that we all face, perhaps bullshit is one of my favorite topics.  After all, it takes a bullshitter to love bullshit ;)

People talk about the past golden age, like the golden age of cinema, or the golden age of cricket (no, not the bugs!).  We now live in a golden age, and of an interesting kind:
We are currently in a golden age of bullshit. The internet is awash with unchecked claims.
Well, I read that on the internet.  So, is that bullshit or the truth?  Isn't everything in the internet true anyway ;)

So, of course, curious people want to know who are the people who are most likely to believe the bullshit.  What is an individual’s propensity to believe in bullshit?  Develop "a Bullshit Receptivity scale (BSR)" then.  What does the research show?
Summarizing the results, Pennycook, et al., write that “[people] more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), are more prone to … conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.”
If you believed that, you probably rank way high in the scale ;)

Seriously, that makes sense, right?  So, what can be done to make sure people will be lower in the SBR scale?
Basically, the goal here should be to get people to slow down and more carefully examine the information being presented to them. To scan it, in other words, for bullshit.
To be engaged and to examine the information is nothing but the rational, critical approach that science employs.  The scientific method.  
if you love science, you had better question it, and question it well, so it can live up to its potential.
The unfortunate aspect is that the very scientific method of questioning anything leads the people with high BSR to believe that scientific research is all bogus.  Science, on the other hand, sniffs out bullshit.  But, sometimes the scientific method cannot be enough to tackle bullshit.  Why?
“The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”
You want a real example?  Think about anything that Donald Trump says at any of his rallies.  They are all bullshit.  Now, think about all the work that has to go into refuting the errors.  A huge magnitude of energy will be needed to refute his bullshit.  You will be barely into the process when a new day dawns and Trump would have generated more bullshit.

If it is the golden age of bullshit, then Trump is certainly the man of the hour.

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