Calling Bullshit

The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World

hardcover, 336 pages

Published Aug. 4, 2020 by Random House.


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3 stars (1 review)

Bullshit isn’t what it used to be. Now, two science professors give us the tools to dismantle misinformation and think clearly in a world of fake news and bad data.

Misinformation, disinformation, and fake news abound and it’s increasingly difficult to know what’s true. Our media environment has become hyperpartisan. Science is conducted by press release. Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. We are fairly well equipped to spot the sort of old-school bullshit that is based in fancy rhetoric and weasel words, but most of us don’t feel qualified to challenge the avalanche of new-school bullshit presented in the language of math, science, or statistics. In Calling Bullshit, Professors Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West give us a set of powerful tools to cut through the most intimidating data.

You don’t need a lot of technical expertise to call out problems with data. Are the numbers or results too …

2 editions

A catalog of misinformation pitfalls

3 stars

I celebrate any a book focusing on scientific literacy and I congratulate the authors on trying to reach an important audience: people who already (try to) think critically but could use some guidance on methods and pitfalls.

The book style is not for me, though. Like other generic best sellers on the 10's and 20's, it uses a random swear word to refer to things that have proper descriptors used by specialists who are serious about this field. It abuses the elasticity of slang to lump together things that are tangential and makes the book longer than it should. Sometimes I started getting semantic satiation from all the bullshit jokes and metaphors going around.

The very end of the book reminds the reader: the book is about calling out "bullshit", not just identifying it. But the majority of the book feels like a textbook that defines exhaustively all the modern …