Listening to the experts discussing bullshit detection
Back in the mid-nineties, Carl Sagan published his infamous Baloney Detection Kit in his book “The Deamon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark“, which included a similarly infamous fallacious arguments list. Unfortunately, the Internet revolution has provided fertile ground for all types of quacks, charlatans and intellectual frauds to spread their fallacious reasoning, misinformation, and pseudoscientific beliefs. Carl Sagan is no longer here to take them. But thankfully, a significant and constantly rising number of skeptics and rational thinkers are trying to counter these waves of nonsense. Two such prominent figures in the blogosphere (and not only) are Andy Lewis and Prof. David Colquhoun.

Andy Lewis is the founder of the Quackometer and tirelessly tries to expose medical quackery and frauds, while Professor of Pharmacology David Colquhoun, is actively engaged in throwing medical nonsense out of the educational system in the UK. Both of them, combined their skeptical powers yesterday in Oxford Town Hall, to discuss how to successfully detect when someone is simply talking bullshit!

Andy and David Preparing


Andy presented a series of outrageously ridiculous medical claims, which unfortunately some members of our society accept with seriousness. He also demonstrated his methodology for exposing the so-called experts that appear in the media, when if you dig a little deeper, you might be surprised by the lack of credentials!

Andy talking


Prof. Colquhoun, discussed the infiltration of nonsense in the UK’s educational system and how all “quality assurance” bodies fail to do their job properly thus allowing “science degrees” without the science. A lot of funny stories here too.

David talking


The event finished with a brief session of questions and answers, and everyone left satisfied -well, I know I did! I think some of the locals continued the discussion in a nearby pub, but it was time for me to get back to London. Nevertheless, it was an excellent day trip to Oxford!

[Thanks to Tolis and Tzeni for the company ;-)]

Update (9 Feb): Prof. Colquhoun was kind enough to send me a list of the things he talked about in Oxford along with the relevant links:
The stuff about the recent wmin audit is at http://dcscience.net/?p=984#wmin

The wmin slides are at http://dcscience.net/?p=227

Teaching Bad Science to children http://dcscience.net/?p=454

Thames Valley Nutritional Medicine http://dcscience.net/?p=260

University of Wales “validation” http://dcscience.net/?p=259

8 Responses to this post
Thank you for braving the snow and coming all the way from London.

The event raised £40 for the British friends of The Treatment Action Campaign.
Hi Lee. It was a very interesting experience to meet and listen to Andy and Prof. Colquhoun. So thanks for arranging everything!
Hi Stavros,

We met briefly at the end of the talk in Oxford last saturday - sorry for not formally introducing myself, we were running off to beat the parking meter!

T
Hey Dr*T,

You were the one sitting behind us with another lady, briefly talked to David at the end, and then left?

Are you based in London?
Indeed!

Not London, I’m afraid, but deepest darkest wiltshire.

T
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thanks for this nice post 111213
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