The important of Baloney Detection

In Figuring, Maria Popova asks — ”How does a person come into self-posession and sovereignty of mind against the tide of convention and unreasoning collectivism?”

The ”sovereignty of mind” that Maria speaks about is not a brash self-assertion that cocks a snook at parents, habits from the past, and the Establishment  It is living completely in accordance with the ”Baloney Detection Kit.”

In The Demon-Haunted World — Science as a Candle in the Dark, the wise Carl Sagan devotes a chapter to the ”The Fine Art of Baloney Detection.” 

The Kit that Carl proposes to help us smell fallaciousness and fraud consists of the following --

  • Confirm facts independently (as much as possible).

  • Dialogue with knowledgeable people from differing points of view.

  • Do not get swayed by authority.

  • Think up different hypothesis.

  • Do not back any view owing to personal attachment to ideas. In other words, it is important to introspect and examine oneself for biases, prejudices, and preferences.

  • Whenever possible, quantify.

  • Examine every link the argument-chain for weakness. Every link must hold up.

  • When faced with multiple plausible hypothesis, pick the one that explains with the most simplicity.

  • Propositions must be falsifiable. In other words, propositions must be testable. 

We would do well to keep in mind that our Brain is not a dispassionate, passive computer  David Eagleman concludes a chapter titled “What is Reality?” (The Brain — The Story of You) writing —  “Your brain serves up a narrative — and each of us believes whatever narrative it tells us....Even more strangely, it’s likely that every brain tells a slightly different narrative....Each brain carries its own truth.” The Brain, while incredibly useful, is not completely reliable in Baloney Detection. Baloney Detection is not an innate cranial trait, but a temper of mind that must be assiduously cultivated. 

Friedrich Nietzsche writes (The Philosopher: Reflections on the Struggle Between Art and Knowledge) that ”life requires illusions”.  Carl, with immense compassion, acknowledges that we are ”human”. Many of us need Santa Claus explanations to live. Having said this, he encourages us to ”rouse reserves” to combat Baloney because it is often created "collaboratively....with....premediation" to deceive, profit, and acquire power over people. When the Kit is not used and we drop our guard, Carl cautions, sometimes we find that “gullibility kills".

i am unlikely to be challenged when i say that Carl spent his lifetime helping us acquire ”sovereignty of mind”

i am thinking of Carl and Maria right now. i am grateful that they are my Teachers.