Baloney Detector: Your Guide to Clear Thinking
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How To Avoid Propaganda – or – Think and Grow Righteous
“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.”  (II Corinthians 2:11)

What’s a Baloney Detector?  “The late astronomer and popularizer of science Carl Sagan worried that an epidemic of irrationality is loose in the world . . . What we need to protect ourselves from such false beliefs, Sagan writes in his book The Demon - Haunted World, is a well-equipped ‘baloney detector kit.’  A baloney detector is simply a good grasp of logical reasoning and investigative procedure.  Carl Sagan and I would agree about how to describe the principles of baloney detecting in general.  We would disagree only about where the detectors are to be pointed, and especially about whether we should ever suspect the presence of baloney in claims made by the official scientific establishment.”   – Dr. Phillip E. Johnson, “Tuning Up Your Baloney Detector” in Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), pp. 37-38.

“Carl Sagan was right: We do need baloney detectors.  But we don’t need to beam them on Christian beliefs, as Sagan urged; instead, let’s use them to get an honest take on the fossil record and to separate science from philosophy.  And we should encourage robust debate between creationists and evolutionists: It keeps both sides from ignoring evidence that does not appear to fit their theories.”  – Chuck Colson, “Is Natural All There Is?”, Breakpoint radio transcript #80209, 1998.

Benefits of Learning the Art of Baloney Detecting:  Sharpen your mind • Reduce fear of intimidation • Avoid traps that might make you look foolish later • Gain wisdom and increase discernment • Learn how to answer cults • Save money by developing sales resistance • Become a better teacher, preacher, speaker or debater • Improve your conversational skills • Become a wiser voter by learning how to separate the issues from the hype • Gain more respect for truth.
Propaganda Tactics
Definition:  Any attempt to influence people’s actions or attitudes without making them think.

Big Lie Half Truth Repetition Bandwagon Plain Folks Glittering Generalities Loaded Words Association Suggestion Intimidation Fear-Mongering Ridicule Subversion

Logical Fallacies
Definition:  Errors in logic or misuse of methods when used in debate or argumentation.

Circular Reasoning Infinite Regress Non-Sequitur Post Hoc Fallacy Circumstantial Evidence Either-Or Fallacy Personification Analogy Reductionism Authority Extrapolation Statistics Best-in-Field Fallacy Shifting the Burden of Proof Self-Referential (Self-Refuting) Fallacy

Definition:  Attempts to evade or confuse the point of an argument.

Ad Hominem Sidestepping Red Herring Equivocation Straw Man Card Stacking Bluffing Appeasement Humor Subjectivity Visualization


For a good source of historical examples of evolutionary propaganda, including little-known and shameful tactics at the Scopes Trial, cf. Bolton Davidheiser, Evolution and Christian Faith (Baker Book House, 1969).

Final comment.  Not all of the above tactics are bad in themselves; it depends on how they are used.  Analogies, humor, visualization, quotations by authorities, and statistics, for instance, are valid parts of rhetoric (persuasive speech), and can be legitimate and helpful teaching aids.  These only err as fallacies or become propagandistic to the extent they dodge the issue, obscure the truth, mislead or take the lazy way out of a debate.  And to avoid being fooled ourselves, we must be alert to these tactics of misdirection and deception.  Paul warned,
“ . . . That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” – (Ephesians 4:14-15).

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“The Baloney Detector is one of the best things on your site.  You have made it so easy to understand how the opposition uses various logical fallacies to confuse and obfuscate the creation message.”  (an educational consultant)

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A Concise Guide
for Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

You can observe a lot by just watching.
– Yogi Berra

First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.

Darwin’s Law
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
Bloch’s Extension
So will Darwinists.

Finagle’s Creed
Science is true.  Don’t be misled by facts.

Finagle’s 2nd Law
No matter what the anticipated result, there will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c) believe it happened to his own pet theory.

Finagle’s Rules
3. Draw your curves, then plot your data.
4. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
6. Do not believe in miracles – rely on them.

Murphy’s Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.

Maier’s Law
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
1. The bigger the theory, the better.
2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50% of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence with the theory.

Christie-Davie’s Theorem
If your facts are wrong but your logic is perfect, then your conclusions are inevitably false.  Therefore, by making mistakes in your logic, you have at least a random chance of coming to a correct conclusion.

Eddington’s Theory
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.

Young’s Law
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

Peer’s Law
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.

Peter’s Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.

Hanlon’s Razor
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Weinberg’s Corollary
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

Cohen’s Law
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts – not the facts themselves.

Harrison’s Postulate
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

Thumb’s Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.

Ruckert’s Law
There is nothing so small that it can’t be blown out of proportion

Hawkins’ Theory of Progress
Progress does not consist in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right.  It consists in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.

Macbeth’s Law
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.

Todd’s Two Political Principles
1. No matter what they’re telling you, they’re not telling you the whole truth.
2. No matter what they’re talking about, they’re talking about money.

Grossman’s Misquote of H. L. Mencken
Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers.

Disraeli’s Dictum
Error is often more earnest than truth.