Calling Bullshit Book Summary - Calling Bullshit Book explained in key points
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Calling Bullshit summary

Carl T. Bergstrom, Jevin D. West

The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World

4.4 (125 ratings)
26 mins

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Calling Bullshit by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West is an entertaining and informative guide that teaches how to spot and refute the BS in our daily lives. It provides tools to navigate the sea of disinformation.

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    Calling Bullshit
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    We all need to be alert to the dangers of bullshit.

    In 1998, the medical journal The Lancet published a study co-written by British physician Andrew Wakefield. It claimed that there may be a link between the widely used MMR vaccine and autism.

    But there wasn’t. Multiple later studies found no link at all, and it turned out that Wakefield’s study was deeply flawed. The Lancet even retracted the paper in 2010. It now counts as one of the most comprehensively discredited studies of all time. It was bullshit.

    And yet its influence has been huge. The “antivax” movement is still going strong, vaccine rates in the US are lower than they were before, and cases of measles are up.

    The sad truth is that it’s far, far easier to make people believe bullshit than it is to make them change their minds.

    But we all have a duty to try.

    The key message here is: We all need to be alert to the dangers of bullshit.

    Bullshit isn’t just a modern phenomenon. Back in ancient Greece, Plato accused the Sophists, a rival school of philosophy, of dealing in bullshit. He said they were only interested in winning arguments, not in what was actually true.

    The twenty-first century, however, provides bullshit with an especially fertile breeding ground. These days, bullshit often claims to be rigorously grounded in science, like Wakefield’s vaccination study. Or it uses seemingly irrefutable evidence like photographs.

    You might remember a story that came out after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. The story claimed that an eight-year-old girl from Sandy Hook Elementary School had been killed – there was even a photo of her running. The story was shared by more than 92,000 people on social media.

    You guessed it: it was false. The girl in the photo hadn’t even run the race – it wasn’t open to children. But the story just proved too irresistible not to share.

    That’s just one example of how modern technology like social media can spur bullshit on. If bullshit like the vaccination study can catch on as widely as it did back in 1998, imagine the harm that can be done in the age of Twitter.

    Factor in our hyperpartisan news networks, factories churning out fake news, and the ease of image manipulation, and we’ve got ourselves a full-on bullshit crisis. We need to take action – now.

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    What is Calling Bullshit about?

    Calling Bullshit (2020) is a guide to navigating the huge amounts of bullshit that surround us. By being alert to the ways in which data and scientific processes get manipulated, we can learn to call out bullshit when we see it.

    Calling Bullshit Review

    Calling Bullshit (2020) by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West is an eye-opening exploration of the rampant misinformation and deception in our society. Here are three reasons why this book is a must-read:

    • With its sharp analysis and incisive examples, it equips readers with the tools to spot and confront bullshit in all its forms, empowering them to make informed decisions.
    • Using clear, accessible language and engaging storytelling, the book presents complex concepts and data in a way that is both understandable and thought-provoking.
    • Challenging conventional wisdom and exposing fallacies, the book encourages critical thinking and fosters a deeper understanding of the world we live in.

    Best quote from Calling Bullshit

    Bullshit pollutes our world by misleading people about specific issues, and it undermines our ability to trust information in general.

    —Carl T. Bergstrom, Jevin D. West
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    Who should read Calling Bullshit?

    • Popular science fans who want to see behind the curtain
    • Data nerds who want to learn more
    • Concerned citizens eager to fight misinformation

    About the Author

    Jevin D. West and Carl T. Bergstrom are both scientists at the University of Washington. West, a data scientist, is an associate professor in the Information School and director of the Center for an Informed Public, and his research focuses on misinformation. Bergstrom is a professor of biology who looks at how information flows through networks both biological and social.

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    Calling Bullshit FAQs 

    What is the main message of Calling Bullshit?

    Calling Bullshit sends a powerful message about the importance of critical thinking and detecting misleading information.

    How long does it take to read Calling Bullshit?

    The reading time for Calling Bullshit varies, but it can typically take several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in about 15 minutes.

    Is Calling Bullshit a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Calling Bullshit is definitely worth a read. It equips readers with the tools to navigate the murky waters of misinformation effectively.

    Who is the author of Calling Bullshit?

    Calling Bullshit is written by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West.

    What to read after Calling Bullshit?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Calling Bullshit, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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