“In bullshitting claims are made, judgements cast, arguments presented, all with the unbearable lightness of those who are free of any responsibility or commitment, even if it is a freedom that is rooted in a profound sense of impotence or insecurity.
A lack of faith in genuine inquiry, intellectual laziness, being forced to speak on issues one knows too little about, all contribute to a culture of bullshitting. And it is a culture that can very well feed on itself. Bullshitting invariably invites more of it. It would be a mistake, however, to limit one’s search for bullshitting only to spent scientists, oily politicians, or sick marketers. When philosophy itself is boldly identified, per Richard Rorty, with “carrying on the conversation” and truth is defined as “what your peers will let you get away with,” even the perennial search for wisdom is being reduced to mere bullshitting..” — Cornelias de Waal
At the heart of this book is a supposition: You do not have to carefully and painstakingly analyze everything you read or hear about fitness, nutrition, and health in order to tell whether or not it is bullshit. All opinions are not equally valid. Opinions borne of ignorance are not valid. Opinions borne of pseudosciences such as astrology and homeopathy are not valid. Opinions borne of magical thinking and superstition are not valid. Opinions based solely on anecdotal evidence are not valid. Opinions based on a fallacious appeal to authority are not valid.
Once you learn that homeopathic preparations contain nothing but sugar and water, no further analysis is required to understand that homeopathy is bullshit. Further investigation may be informative on many levels, but not as to whether homeopathic preparations actually work. Yet, we are often taught that critical thinking is about being fair-minded and balanced. Seeking an artificial balance where none exists is not thinking critically at all!
This book, therefore, is not about how hard it is to learn to think critically, but how easy it is to learn to spot bullshit. While one informs the other, a robust bullshit detector is only one attribute of the advanced thinker.
And yet we are held at bay by bullshit itself. It is bullshit that tells us that we can’t understand certain information well enough to debunk it. After reading this book, you should be thoroughly dissuaded from believing in that notion. This book is not divided into chapters but rather numerous sections. Each and every section can stand alone. You can read this book from beginning to end or skip around in any way you see fit and still get something out of it.
Throughout the book, I discuss bullshit in general and in its particulars. The beginning sections of the book deal more with the general ways, along with appropriate examples, that bullshitters ply their craft. Let’s begin with bullshit as an online industry.