Calling BS Read Along: Series Introduction

Well hello hello! A few weeks ago, someone forwarded me a syllabus for a new class at being offered at the University of Washington this semester Info 198: Calling Bullshit. The synopsis is simple: “Our world is saturated with bullshit. Learn to detect and defuse it. Obviously I was intrigued. The professors ( Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West) have decided to put their entire syllabus online along with links to weekly readings, and are planning to add some of  the lectures when they conclude the semester. Of course this interested me greatly, and I was excited to see that they pointed to some resources I was really familiar with, and some I wasn’t.

Given that I’m in the middle of a pretty grueling semester of my own, I thought this might be a great time to follow along with their syllabus, week by week, and post my general thoughts and observations as I went along. I’m very interested in how classes like this get thought through and executed, and what topics different people find critical in sharpening their BS detectors. Hopefully I’ll find some new resources for my own classroom talks, and see if there’s anything I’d add or subtract.

I’ll start with their introduction next week, but I’ll be following the schedule of lectures posted in the syllabus for each week:

  1. Introduction to bullshit
  2. Spotting bullshit
  3. The natural ecology of bullshit
  4. Causality
  5. Statistical traps
  6. Visualization
  7. Big data
  8. Publication bias
  9. Predatory publishing and scientific misconduct
  10. The ethics of calling bullshit.
  11. Fake news
  12. Refuting bullshit

I’ll be reading through each of the readings associated with each lecture, summarizing, adding whatever random thoughts I have, and making sure the links are posted. I’ll be adding a link for the next week’s reading as well. Anyone who’s interested can of course read along and add their own commentary, or just wait for my synopsis.

Happy debunking! (And go straight to Week 1 here)

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