We’ve gotten to the point in our society where our attention is divided between a million different subjects at any given time. Who’s hosting SNL this week. What we’re going to make for dinner. When we’re going to get laid next.
 
In order to keep up with the pace of society, we make assumptions and generalities that allow us to quickly reach conclusions about the world. We distill information into small units of 140 characters or less. We give powerful presentations that are literally made up of bullet points. (Haha, Powerpoint, get it?)
 
In a lot of ways this is good. “Common knowledge” allows us to absorb and process information much more quickly than ever before.
 
But the inherent problem with these generalities and assumptions packaged into little bite-sized pieces is that we lose the power that the forgone specifics once provided. There’s a reason textbooks and education materials aren’t written like Buzzfeed articles. There’s a reason it takes 4 years at an accredited university to earn a bachelor’s degree.
 
Information is nuanced. Context is important.
 
Common knowledge also forces us to rely upon the Consensus Fallacy, which is the unsound belief that something is true just because a majority of people believe it to be so.
 
I’ll be the first to say that common knowledge provides an incredible benefit to voracious learners like myself. It allows us to make use of the trust we hold for our peers and the information they possess. Could you imagine having to Google something or go to the library every time you wanted to verify a piece of information? You would learn next to nothing.
library doorway with books everywhere
Where did I put my dictionary again?

Isaac Newton astutely described his success in reference to this idea when he said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 1Bullshit Fact #.5: This quote of  Newton’s wasn’t actually first made by him; it was made by Bernard of Chartres in John of Salisbury’s ...continueWithout our ability to rely upon our ancestors (and our contemporaries) as sources of viable information, we could never have hoped to accomplish as much as we have since the dawn of time.

But with this implicit trust we have for each other comes the responsibility to present one another with truthful information. The idea of common knowledge cannot exist without the simultaneous presence of the Consensus Fallacy; it is a necessary evil we must live with in order to allow us to be able to share the largest volume of information with each other as possible.
 
But that does not mean we need to sit idly by and allow misinformation to run rampant. We need to seek that shit out and excise it from our daily lexicon. You can allow your friends and family to be sources of information for you, but you also need to be sure to keep an open ear for bullshit.
 
I know it’s hard to figure out what to believe anymore in this day and age of everyone being an expert because they have access to the internet. So here is a list of bullshit facts you can use to correct people when you encounter this nonsense on your daily adventures2And I am aware of the irony in this, because what you are reading now is, too, on the internet. But don’t worry. All of these citations ...continue

Bullshit Fact #1: You Should Wait At Least 1 Hour After Eating Before Going Swimming

That’s bullshit.
 
This wives tale hinges upon the assumption that your body’s digestion process decreases blood flow from other parts of your body. Specifically the muscles you would use to swim, which could result in cramps and cause you to drown.
 
But there is no evidence that anyone has ever drowned because they suffered muscle cramps while swimming on a full stomach. There is an increase in blood flow to the stomach during digestion, but not so much that you would notice a performance decrease in any other bodily function3O’Connor, A. (2005, June 28). The claim: Never swim after eating. New York Times.
Your body has plenty of blood to go around. It’s like Oprah during one of her manic episodes. You get some blood! You get some blood! Who wants some blooooood?
 
Full stomach or empty stomach, any skeletal muscle cramps you may develop while swimming will have been caused by some other factor. (I’m no betting man, but I’d put my money on your potentially weak, feeble body.)
 
With that being said, there is some credence we can give to this wives tale for non-recreational swimmers. As with any highly physical event, it is not smart to eat within an hour or two of the time that you might exert any strenuous physical activity. You could very well get a stomach cramp if you start doing your best Michael Phelps imitation after eating a giant meal4Milburn, Peter. (2012, November 18). Monday’s medical myth: wait 30 minutes after eating before you swim. The Conversation.
 
This won’t cause you to drown or anything, but in all honesty, who eats a giant meal and then thinks, I think I’ll go swim like there’s no tomorrow?
 
Idiots. That’s who.
 
So don’t feel the need to sit by the poolside counting down the minutes until you can get back in the water after eating whatever the concession stand tried passing off as food. Just hop in the water and get back to doing your thing, you little fishy, you.

Bullshit Fact #2: Vitamin C Helps Treat The Common Cold

No way, Jose. 
 
We’ve all made the mistake of sniffling around our grandmothers, only to be barraged with the onslaught of, “Oh, it sounds like you have a cold coming on, dear. Better start taking some extra Vitamin C. Here’s a 500 gagilligram tablet that I bought from my health catalog.”
 

This myth was propagated by Linus Pauling, a distinguished 20th-century scientist. 5Offit, Paul. (2013, July 20). The vitamin myth: Why we think we need supplements. The Atlantic.He made several notable contributions to the scientific community in the fields of biology, chemistry, and particle physics, to name a few. But in his later years, he developed an unfounded obsession with vitamins. Namely Vitamin C.

 
Pauling was convinced that vitamins taken in high enough doses could cure everything from the common cold to cancer. And because of the clout Pauling had garnered during his successful career, a lot of people believed him.
 

However, study after study, conducted both before, during, and after the time of Pauling, has shown that the ingestion of increased levels of Vitamin C does not treat or prevent the common cold. 6National Institutes of Health (2016, December 16). Vitamin C. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.In fact, vitamins and supplements across the board are generally found to have little to no positive impact on overall health. High enough doses of certain vitamins actually lead to a myriad of health disorders, from diarrhea to kidney stones.

The North American Dietary Reference Intake actually recommends the average person ingest at least 90 milligrams of Vitamin C a day, 7United States Department of Agriculture. (2000). Vitamin C.an amount so small, you could get it from eating a cup of strawberries, bell peppers, or broccoli. 8Oranges are actually not the best source of vitamin C per serving. Other good sources are kale, papayas, kiwi, mangoes, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, ...continue

The bottom line is that anyone who eats a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies is sure to be getting enough Vitamin C, not to mention all the other essential vitamins and minerals. The U.S Government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines actually recommend that the majority of your essential daily nutrients come from whole, natural foods. 9Health.gov. (2015). U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.Not pills or supplements.

Obviously people with dietary deficiencies or allergies may need to take supplements. This is fine. The greater concern is for people who subsist themselves on shit like McDonald’s and Red Bull and expect to reach a state of bodily equilibrium by taking daily nutrient pills. And then there are the people who take a million vitamins every day hoping they will live to be 113. Good luck with that.

Supplements should be taken as supplements. They should supplement your diet. Not comprise it.

supplement pills in the shape of a dinner plate.
You should get all of your nutrients from real food, not pills. We call them “supplements” for a reason.
Okay. Supplement rant over. Back to the Vitamin C. I should at least make one other point clear.
 
In some select studies, the keyword here being some, Vitamin C supplements have been found to help shorten the length of a cold if the vitamins are taken regularly before the onset symptoms of the cold begin to show. However, it is very important to note that the duration of the cold is only reduced by about 8% for select individuals, or 1 day of a 12-day span of the cold10Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. NCBI.
 
Hopefully, you see how ineffective this is. Any other medication that required you take it 24/7 in the event you might get sick and then only worked 8% of the time would not be deemed medicine.
 
So to all my daily Vitamin C supplement ingesters: a small percentage of you may occasionally notice reduced durations of colds. But you are not the exception that proves the rule.
 
The vast majority of us who begin to take increased amounts of vitamins when we feel a cold coming on are just wasting our time and money on an industry that is literally built upon the groundless assumptions of a washed up scientist.  
 
Save your time and money. Invest your resources in a diet and lifestyle that will prevent you from getting sick in the first place.

Bullshit Fact #3: All Police Officers Have To Identify Themselves As Such Or Risk Facing Entrapment

I call bullshit.
 
Ever hear of undercover cops? Their jobs would be a hell of a lot more difficult if they had to tell every scumbag they encountered that they were a cop.
 
Entrapment is actually the practice of police officers convincing people to commit a crime that they might otherwise not be inclined to commit11Sorrells v. United States (1932). United States Supreme Court.
 
So if a police officer is undercover inside a drug cartel and he convinces a member of the cartel to buy a shitload of Mexican black tar heroin, then yes, he has certainly entrapped that poor little cartel member, and any evidence he may have collected so far in the investigation will have been for naught.
 
But, if the cartel member already has the disposition to buy Mexican black tar heroin of his own accord, and he does so while the undercover cop can document his actions, then the entrapment argument does not apply.
 
The cop is also completely allowed to straight up lie if asked about being a cop. 12Mikkelson, Barbara. (2007 June 7). Are You A Cop? Snopes.The point is that people shouldn’t do morally reprehensible things just because they don’t think they will get in trouble or because a cop isn’t around. People should instead not break laws because that is the moral thing to do. (Or something like that. I guess every law doesn’t actually align with some deeper moral code, but you get the idea.)
 
A cop shouldn’t need to identify himself just to ensure that some idiot cartel member follows the rules. Undercover cops are simply observing actions that would have taken place with or without their undercover presence. As long as they are not an influential factor in the crime being committed, then entrapment is not an issue.
 
Keep that in mind the next time some stiff tries buying pot off of you.

Bullshit Fact #4: The Consumption Of Sugar Causes Hyperactivity In Children

No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Just no.

Test after test after test has been done to evaluate the effects of sugar on children’s hyperactivity levels and there is absolutely no evidence to show that sugar causes hyperactivity in children. Here’s one test. 13Wolraich, M. L. et al. (1994). Effects of diets high in Sucrose or Aspartame on the behavior and cognitive performance of children. New England ...continueAnd here’s another. 14Hoover, D., & Milich, R. (1994). Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions. NCBI.And here’s one more for shits and giggles. 15Wolraich, M., Wilson, D., & White, J. (1995). The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis. NCBI.

None of these tests, as well as numerous others that have been done since the 1970s, have found any link between sugar consumption and hyperactivity levels.

This myth is attributed to Dr. Benjamin Feingold, who proposed that the consumption of food coloring and additives, which often coexist with sugar in food, caused hyperactivity in children. 16Kanarek, R. B. (2011). Artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Oxford University Press.This claim has been fairly well refuted since the 1970s when Feingold first released his findings.

Since then, there have been a few other miscellaneous studies that have also drawn weak links between food additive consumption and behavioral problems with children who are genetically predisposed to have ADHD, 17Millichap, G. J., & Yee, M. M. (2012). The diet factor in attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder. AAP News & Journals.But the idea that sugar itself causes changes in children’s behavior seems to be nothing more than a wives tale passed around by parents seeking to explain why their children are so damned wound up all of the time.

One thing parents don’t take into account is that children are most often hyper around other children. And when children get together, either for a play date or a birthday party, there is always some type of sugar laden treat involved. Cake, candy, ice cream, you name it. But it’s the party or the atmosphere that causes children to become hyper, not sugar.

2 kids at a birthday party
These kids just had some cake and they are fucking LIT
On top of that, another huge factor that parents overlook is the plethora of other ingredients that are in sugary foods. For example, soda and chocolate are both laden with sugar, but they also both possess high amounts of caffeine. The sugar in these items might not cause your kid to bounce off of the wall, but the caffeine certainly will.
 
A third point we all need to remain aware of is that sometimes kids are just fucking batshit crazy. But don’t get me wrong. Despite my sardonic demeanor, I actually love children. For realz. I worked at a Boys & Girls Club for 6 years and if I learned one thing during that time, it’s that children don’t need an excuse to be insane. They are perfectly capable of living up to that stereotype just fine on their own.
 
I’m not bashing kids, or saying that their excitement or tenacity is a bad thing. Quite often I actually envy their uninhibited natures. My point is simply that kids are kids. We can’t hold them to the same standard as adults because they’re not adults. They’re kids.
 
They’re still trying to figure out who they are and what they should do and how they should act. This means that they are prone to random bouts of chaotic mania, and on some level, we have to be okay with that.
 
The final dynamic to this silly myth is the perpetuation of the effects of sugar on kids to kids.

Lots of kids I encountered at the Club also wrongly believed that sugar made them hyper. Upon consuming some sugary piece of junk food or drinking some sugary-laden beverage, they would purposely begin to amp themselves up, playing into the preconceived notion that sugar should make them hyper. Some of them even used the sugar as an excuse to act in ways they would not have otherwise acted in. Many of the tests that used placebos for sugar demonstrated this phenomenon. 18Hammond, C. (2013, July 23). Does sugar make children hyperactive? BBC.

Does all of this mean it’s fine to feed your kids a bunch of sugary garbage? Fuck no.
 
Refined sugar might not be the cause of your child’s inability to sit still and be quiet, but that does not make it a healthy substance for children to consume at the volumes they currently do. There are plenty of other consequences of consuming large levels of sugar (for kids and adults alike) that should still cause parents to reconsider their children’s current sugar intake levels.

Bullshit Fact #5: You Only Use 10% Of Your Brain

Oh my god, shut up, make it stop. This is one is soooooooooo bullshit.

While this myth has become highly popularized during our time by films such as Limitless and Lucy, it is believed to have begun in the late 19th century when Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis attempted to rationalize the immense intelligence of Boris’s son, William, who was believed to have an IQ well into the 200s.
 
Supposedly, the two put forth the notion that most people only use a percentage of the total potential of their brain power. They rationalized that people with greater intelligence were capable of utilizing more of their brain. Over the next few decades, the percentage attributed to the layman was falsely specified to be 10 percent, and the myth has carried on ever since19Jarrett, C. (2014, July 24). All You Need To Know About the 10 Percent Brain Myth, in 60 Seconds. Wired.

It also seems as if early neurological researchers had little understanding of glial cells in the brain. Even though glial cells make up a majority of brain cells, they really only maintain the health of the neuron cells, which carry out the brain’s major functions. Glial cells might have seemed like extraneous brain matter to ignorant neurologists because they only act in a supplemental capacity, but to say that we do not use the portions of our brain containing glial cells is completely false20Wolosker H., Dumin E., et al. (2008, July) D-amino Acids In The Brain. NCBI.

Ironically enough, modern evidence seems to suggest that the higher your ratio of glial to neuronal cells is, the greater your intelligence capacity will be21Aw, Ben. (2014). 5 Reasons Why Glial Cells Were So Critical To Human Intelligence. Scientific Brains.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the brain. But we can all be sure of at least one thing: we definitely use almost all of our brains at all times.22Boyd, R. (2008, February 7). Do people only use 10 percent of their brains? Scientific American.(Yes, even stupid people).

PET and fMRI scans have revealed that regardless of what one is doing at any given time, all parts of the brain are active. Some parts are going to be more active than others depending on a person’s current activities, but there are definitely no parts of the brain not being used. 23Cherry, K. (2016, September 6). Do you really use only 10 percent of your brain? Verywell.

The brain also works in regions. Different thought processes or physical stimulations activate different areas of the brain. If we only used 10 percent of our brains, or even if we only used 90 percent of our brains, we would be able to observe regions of the brain that appear to serve no function. We have yet to find any such regions.
 
So to all the people who were waiting for the version of the future in which pharmaceutical companies start marketing smart drugs to allow you to learn languages in a day or develop psychic powers, I am sorry to tell you that day will never come. Time to start achieving your goals like a normal person. Except for the psychic stuff. That is also bullshit.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Five pieces of bullshit that have been shoved down your throat as common knowledge your entire life.
 
Now you can hide in the bushes at the park and wait for someone to walk by and mention one of these ‘facts,’ and then you can hop out and scream, “Ooga-booga-booga! That’s actually not true!”
 
(Don’t actually do that. It’s weird and creepy.)
 
If you were surprised by any of these societal myths, just take a second and consider the sheer volume of additional myths you may believe but are still unaware of. How much other bullshit is being passed off as knowledge?
 
The answer is too much. The best things we can do are keep ourselves educated and do our own research.
 
Read. A lot. Books. Articles. Journals. Pamphlets at the abortion clinic. Whatever. Just look for references and apparent biases.  
 
Even what I’ve written here needs to be scrutinized. I might put forth a lot of effort to make these kitschy little articles, but at the end of the day, I’m just some dude on the internet. I provide citations for a reason.
 
Furthermore, don’t believe something just because it’s a commonly held belief. And don’t fall for the Consensus Fallacy. Investigate issues for yourself before developing your own opinion. The general public doesn’t know jack shit.
 
And most importantly, don’t hold fast to any of your beliefs. Beliefs should only be as strong as the evidence they are based upon. New evidence should yield new beliefs.
 
It’s a scary world out there, but you can do this. Just remember what Robin Williams said:

robin williams smiling

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Bullshit Fact #.5: This quote of  Newton’s wasn’t actually first made by him; it was made by Bernard of Chartres in John of Salisbury’s Metalogicon.
2. And I am aware of the irony in this, because what you are reading now is, too, on the internet. But don’t worry. All of these citations reference other works that prove my statements. Which, I guess, are also on the internet. Whatever. The internet is a gift and a curse.
3. O’Connor, A. (2005, June 28). The claim: Never swim after eating. New York Times.
4. Milburn, Peter. (2012, November 18). Monday’s medical myth: wait 30 minutes after eating before you swim. The Conversation.
5. Offit, Paul. (2013, July 20). The vitamin myth: Why we think we need supplements. The Atlantic.
6. National Institutes of Health (2016, December 16). Vitamin C. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
7. United States Department of Agriculture. (2000). Vitamin C.
8. Oranges are actually not the best source of vitamin C per serving. Other good sources are kale, papayas, kiwi, mangoes, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, pineapple, green bell peppers, and chili peppers. Citrus fruits are still good sources of Vitamin C, they are just erroneous poster children.
9. Health.gov. (2015). U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
10. Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. NCBI.
11. Sorrells v. United States (1932). United States Supreme Court.
12. Mikkelson, Barbara. (2007 June 7). Are You A Cop? Snopes.
13. Wolraich, M. L. et al. (1994). Effects of diets high in Sucrose or Aspartame on the behavior and cognitive performance of children. New England Journal of Medicine.
14. Hoover, D., & Milich, R. (1994). Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions. NCBI.
15. Wolraich, M., Wilson, D., & White, J. (1995). The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis. NCBI.
16. Kanarek, R. B. (2011). Artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Oxford University Press.
17. Millichap, G. J., & Yee, M. M. (2012). The diet factor in attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder. AAP News & Journals.
18. Hammond, C. (2013, July 23). Does sugar make children hyperactive? BBC.
19. Jarrett, C. (2014, July 24). All You Need To Know About the 10 Percent Brain Myth, in 60 Seconds. Wired.
20. Wolosker H., Dumin E., et al. (2008, July) D-amino Acids In The Brain. NCBI.
21. Aw, Ben. (2014). 5 Reasons Why Glial Cells Were So Critical To Human Intelligence. Scientific Brains.
22. Boyd, R. (2008, February 7). Do people only use 10 percent of their brains? Scientific American.
23. Cherry, K. (2016, September 6). Do you really use only 10 percent of your brain? Verywell.

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