The Baloney Detection Kit: Arming yourself against pseudoscience.

In Carl Sagan’s book,  The Demon-Haunted World, his essay ‘The Fine Art of Baloney Detection’  delivers his ‘detection kit’ against pseudoscience, something we have very likely become very accustomed too in recent times., 

Sagan, an astronomer, was an advocate of scientific skepticism (sometimes known as rational skepticism). Advocates of scientific skepticism take the stance that empirical knowledge is gained through empirical investigation of reality, and therefore the scientific method of inquiry is the best way to attain this. 

Sagan sought to popularise science and improve public understanding of science. Sagan, adopted his position of scientific scepticism, opposing pseudoscience and its lack of scientific inquiry.

In his book, Sagan devised his suggestions about the “tools” that the skeptic should arm themselves with in their Baloney Detection Kit. The kit, Sagan argued, is built on the fundamentals of scientific skepticism. 

According to Sagan, by reviewing the evidence behind a claim, and being able to spot fallacious or fraudulent arguments, is the best way to dismiss baloney (pseudoscience).

In his detection kit, Sagan suggestions don’t just provide tools to identify bad arguments,  they also allow for the creations of better alternatives. 

2. Encourage substantive debate; on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours; It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea? Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

As put by Sagan himself:

“What skeptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and—especially important—to recognise a fallacious or fraudulent argument. 

The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premise or starting point and whether that premise is true”

#Science #Sagan #Skepticism #CriticalThinking #QuestionEverything


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