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Watch: Carl Sagan's Rules For The Fine Art of Baloney Detection

Skepticism, Sagan style.

13 MAR 2018

Way, way back in 1995 (okay so maybe not that far back), astrophysicist Carl Sagan published his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

In that book, was an entire chapter dedicated to 'The Fine Art of Baloney Detection', which laid out some basic rules for critical thinking. Over the years, that very chapter has led to what skeptics call the 'Baloney Detection Kit'.


In a new video from BigThink, skeptic and science writer Michael Shermer lays out how each one of us can use Sagan's timeless skepticism to debunk untruths and call out baloney (aka fake news) when we see it.

Shermer argues that in order to be the best baloney detector possible, all we have to do is ask ourselves ten basic questions, beginning with: how reliable is the source of the claim?

Then you move on to: how reliable is the actual claim? What's the evidence for it? What's the quality of the evidence? Where does it come from? Who said that? Is this some Russian fake news site or is it The New York Times? Because, as we all know in this age of fake news, that is actually a thing we all have to consider now.

Next up: Has anyone tried to disprove the claim? Has anyone actually run experiments to try to disprove the theory? And lastly, does the claimant's personal belief somehow enter in to their whole argument?

By the end of all these questions we're bound to be exhausted, but we'll also be way more informed. And maybe, just maybe, we'll have stopped the perpetuation of pure, unadulterated baloney.