Maybe, But How Did Bush 'Know' Saddam Had WMDs?

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And speaking of required reading for incoming freshmen: maybe if more people read this essay on how to detect bullshit, then schmucks like Ward Churchill and the ISM would be far less popular:

The first detection tool is a question: How do you know what you know? Throw this phrase down when someone force feeds you an idea, an argument, a reference to a study or over-confidently suggests a course of action. People so rarely have their claims challenged, that asking someone to explain how they know sheds light on whatever ignorance they’re hiding. It instantly diminishes the force of a BS driven opinion. It works well in response to the following examples:

# "The project will take 5 weeks". How do you know this? What might go wrong that you haven't accounted for? Would you bet $10k on this claim? $100k?
# "Our design is groundbreaking." Really? What ground is that? And who, besides the designers/investors, has this opinion?
# "Studies show that liars' pants are flame resistant.." What studies? Who ran them and why? Did you actually read the study or a two sentence press clipping (poorly) explaining the results? Are there any studies that claim the opposite?

When you ask a flavor of “how do you know what you know?” often they can't answer quickly. Even credible thinkers need time to sort through their logic, separating assumptions from facts: an an exercise that works in everyone’s favor.
[H/T LifeHacker]

1 Comment

This is great advice for detecting bullshit, as the article's title would suggest. It's unfortunate that applications of the question will brand you a troublemaker in most workplaces and organizations, and it certainly doesn't follow Dale Carnegie's advice of "Don't argue."

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on August 24, 2006 4:39 PM.

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