After watching – and briefly being at the receiving end of – the latest bullshit tsunami about the Covid vaccines, I’ve decided to write another blog post1 about scepticism and the value of scientific expertise. And then I realised I had already written that post a year ago :P. That’s great – it saves me time that I don’t really have in the first place! So instead I decided to list a few heuristics in the style of Occam’s Razor. While I have slim hope, perhaps they will help in fighting the bullshit in which we are drowning.
- Snopes Razor: When your racist relative/former highschool classmate/contrarian ex-colleague posts something on Facebook, there is probably already a Snopes.com article debunking it.
- Soros Razor: If they say that fact-checkers like Snopes or the BBC cannot be trusted because “they are in the pocket of George Soros/Bill Gates/Satanists/Aliens/Jewish Space Lasers”, don’t waste your breath and block them at once.
- 360 Razor: Whenever the bullshitter pleads with you to “look at all the evidence from every angle”, they usually want you to look only at their evidence from their angle.
- Majority Razor: When 9 out of 10 experts agree that something is bullshit, it probably is.2
- NOFX Razor: Then again, just because everyone in your bubble believes the bullshit doesn’t make it right.3
- Expert Razor: The bullshitter’s “scientific expert” has a PhD but it’s in a field that has nothing to do with the topic in question and/or their professorship is at a non-existent university.
- Read-on Razor: If the bullshitter posts the title of a scientific article to make their point, read the abstract. If they post the abstract, read the whole article. It will inevitably say the exact opposite to what the bullshitter claims it does.
- Extrapolation Razor: The bullshitter’s main thesis is inevitably based on a pretty wild misconstrual or outright deliberate distortion of something someone said or did in good faith.4
- Oversimplification Razor: The bullshitter’s understanding of scientific evidence will not only be limited but overly simplistic without room for relative evidence or nuance.5
- The Rabbit Hole: If a bullshitter bullshits about one bullshit they inevitably bullshit about other bullshit, too. And the bullshitting will only get worse. Bullshit begets bullshit.
1) How obvious is it that I’m getting as much of this out of my system before I let the domain expire and retire from blogging for good…?
2) It’s true, a single brilliant insight can revolutionise our understanding. But Galileo did that because he was right, not because he defied the establishment. The truth will out eventually. And on this note:
4) For a first-hand demonstration of this phenomenon, google “Bill Gates vaccine population control”. Then after reading for a bit you’ll want to take a good shower to scrub off that icky feeling. (If you’re in Auckland, keep it under 4 minutes though – it may be under some control now but we still have a water shortage…)
5) The interpretation of data is also highly asymmetric. To the bullshitter, 95% efficacy means “ineffective” while 0.00001% constitutes a “mortal risk”. That’s for example why “Vaccines don’t stop transmission”. The reason you don’t know anyone who died of smallpox or polio is sunspots. Incidentally, sunspots are also to blame for climate change of course. Except for the climate change that escaped from a Chinese climate lab.