As part of Culture Night in Blackrock Castle this weekend, I talked about a number of techniques we all should be on the look out for when confronted with strange claims that don’t seem to make much sense. These techniques included strong emotional appeals, the use of celebrities, “magic” words, claims that seemed to be too good to be true, and the “black or white” fallacy, where only two options are presented even though other alternatives may exist. These are just some examples of what are called Logical Fallacies – you can find more fallacies discussed in the website below.
I also spoke about the dangers of anecdotes and testimonials and why we can’t always rely on our memories or perceptions to explain what we might have witnessed. Finally, I contrasted scientific claims to baloney claims, outlining the hard work that has taken place to provide a reliable understanding of the world around us.
The following books are worth a look if you are interested in finding out more about science and baloney.
Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) – Carol Tavris & Eliot Aronson
Bad Science – Ben Goldacre
Trick or Treatment – Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst
The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan
Flim Flam! – James Randi
Why People Believe Weird Things – Michael Shermer
Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait
Paranormality – Richard Wiseman
James Randi Educational Foundation
The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe
The Strange Powers of the Placebo Effect