Dealing with BS

Continuing the discussion from What books are you reading or have finished lately:

Withering deadpan ridicule works pretty good. Just draw enormous logical fallacies from their BS and shove it in their faces until they choke on it. Of course, this only serves to make them brand you as “one of them” and quietly hate you, but that is mostly OK by me. I have no need for a social relationship with people who try to convince me that the earth is flat.

The problem arises when this concerns someone with whom you’re expected to maintain relations. Have you ever been confronted with a purveyor of MLM in your extended family? I never know what to do with those. On one hand I want to let them know in no uncertain terms that their world view isn’t just illogical, but also bordering on evil. On the other hand I’d never be forgiven by my significant other, so I avert my eyes and avoid interaction without being rude. It becomes a form of shunning, which may be worse in some ways, but at least it is socially acceptable.

I personally ascribe the rise of BS to the echo chamber effect. No matter how far out your world view, you’ll find a Facebook group with your name on it. From there, it’s a simple click of a button to block anyone with offending opinions and inconvenient reasoning.

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Here is a link to the essay On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt

My understanding of what KPC and Frankfurt are saying is that BS is when someone is explaining their own concept of how real things in the real world work, without regard to if their conception is helpful to understanding or not. The bullshitter thinks that only sincerity matters and accuracy is irrelevant.

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Thanks for sharing. That was an entertaining read, even though it concerns itself almost exclusively with defining the term, and less with examining its impact on society.

[The bullshitter] does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

That’s absolutely spot on.

Frankfurt’s definition tallies closely with my own, but I use the term in a wider sense. I would for example call bullshit on an elaborate oratory construct in support of a bare faced lie. Others use the term even wider. I used to work for a ship owner who really wasn’t into technical details. If I went on about why a port scavenged two stroke main was unsuited to driving an AC generator, he’d say “Spare me the bullshit, just tell me which one to get!”

The examples I gave above allude to how bullshit is frequently used to fortify indefensible positions. That is perhaps the most insidious, sinister facet of this phenomenon. Have you ever heard an MLM believer try to explain why his choices are correct? It is almost physically painful to behold.

There are more prevalent examples, which are annoying rather than disturbing. Magazine ads for high end watches spring to mind. I haven’t seen a single one which wasn’t an exercise in carefully crafted gibberish of the highest order. When confronted with this in daily speech, I do resort to deadpan ridicule: “Indeed, your new apartment is quite unique in how it is identical to the one next door.”

About a year ago at someone’s party I was talking with a guy I’d never met. He advanced the idea to me that the government had faked the moon landing. I wasn’t interested in his theories so I just said “Anything’s possible”. This only encouraged him and he continued by saying the reason the government made it up was to make us believe the earth was round. It’s propaganda he said, just look at the horizon. It’s a straight line.
I was trying to think of a way to politely walk away but I couldn’t help myself. I told him I’d ridden in a military jet fighter and that at an altitude of 60 thousand feet the curved horizon starts to become perceptible.
6 thousand feet? he asked. I said no, 60 thousand.
He looked at me as if I was the biggest BS artist he’d ever met and walked away.


Should’ve told him you were dispersing chemtrails when you saw the curved horizon. You just gotta one up the conspiracy nuts.

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Chemtrails. I had to look that one up.

I have a neighbors down the street whose wife walks around wearing an aluminum foil hat to guard against EMF exposure. The husband started telling me about chemtrails and the conspiracies going on. It was like listening to an episode of the twilight zone.

This one’s my favorite.

Nice! Some good bullshit there, too:

I honestly don’t believe that whoever wrote that was very concerned with the truth of the matter.

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The author of the essay is a philosopher so he delves into the meaning of words. Another way of saying it is a lie can be shown to be false but BS can not be.

Did Lee Shore really see the earth curvature? It’s either a lie or the truth and with enough effort it could be shown one way or the other(I assume it’s true).

But because it can be proven or disproven it’s not BS in the meaning given in the essay.

WIth BS on the other hand no claims are made which can be proven or disproven.

To a flat earther it cannot be proven. The flat earth society started out as a philosophical movement stating that one should only believe what can be directly observed. Since then it has evolved into something much more mundane, little more than a run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory. Come to think of it, the flat earth society itself must be at least partially responsible for the rise of BS:

Edit: A flat earther could of course get a ride in a fighter jet if he wanted to challenge his notions, but that is beyond the means of most. Still, there are those who try.


I wonder if those EMF hats would have helped our diplomats and their families in Cuba and China.

Flat Earthers have very strong priors, Economics, stale memes, and distraction from productive activity - it’s derp.

But here’s the thing: When those people keep broadcasting their priors to the world again and again after every new piece of evidence comes out, it gets very annoying.

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The weather condition have to be just right with no mountains on the horizon but you don’t have to go to 60 thousand feet to see visual proof. Standing on a beach and watching a ship come up from hull down should do it for a critically thinking person. If I had produced a copy of Bowditch and shown him the chapter on navigation or sight distance charts for lighthouses it probably wouldn’t have done it. You can’t fix stupid.

Critical Thinking Defined

Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved to support a particular argument or conclusion. People who use critical thinking are the ones who say things such as, ‘How do you know that? Is this conclusion based on evidence or gut feelings?’ and ‘Are there alternative possibilities when given new pieces of information?’

Additionally, critical thinking can be divided into the following three core skills:

  1. Curiosity is the desire to learn more information and seek evidence as well as being open to new ideas.
  2. Skepticism involves having a healthy questioning attitude about new information that you are exposed to and not blindly believing everything everyone tells you.
  3. Finally, humility is the ability to admit that your opinions and ideas are wrong when faced with new convincing evidence that states otherwise.

Well there goes $122. Need that for next crew change when the other folks whip out those medical masks this baby is coming out of my carry on and I’m just gonna stare at them with those sand-people eyes.

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This NatGeo video shows that it’s a growing movement trying to promote Dark Ages concepts in the face of scientific evidence. The Guru of the flat earth movement makes an appearance and appears to be a perfectly normal person until he opens his mouth.


I dealt with all kinds of BS in this industry for 39 years. The best way I found to deal with BS almost 10 years ago was to retire young enough to enjoy it!


It is interesting to watch that video, what is being said is exactly BS in the narrow sense according to Frankfurt’s essay.

The video is someone describing their world view, a view formed without regards to reality. You might just as well listen to someone describe their dreams.

As far as how to deal with it, someone like that is not suited to be a senior ship’s officer.