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 this fast pace society, we make assumptions and generalities that allow us to reach conclusions about the world very quickly. We distill information into small units of 140 characters or less and give presentations that are sometimes made up of nothing more than bullet points.
In a lot of ways this is good. The idea of “common knowledge” has allowed us to be able to absorb and process information much more quickly than we have ever been able to 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.
The idea of 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 in an effort to garner new wisdom of our own. Could you imagine having to Google something or go to the library every time you were presented with a new piece of information just to verify its validity? You would learn next to nothing.
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 accomplished as much as we have since the dawn of time.
But with this implicit trust we bestow upon 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 adventures. 2And 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
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 be using to swim, which could result in cramps and cause you to drown.
But there is no evidence to show that any aspect of your digestion process has any effect on the blood flow within your skeletal muscle system. Full stomach or empty stomach, any cramps you may develop while swimming will have been caused by some other factor. 3O’Connor, A. (2005, June 28). The claim: Never swim after eating. New York Times.
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.
With that being said, there is some credence that can be given 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 are expected to physically perform.
Could you imagine running a couple of miles in 70-degree heat after eating a big dish of pasta? Your muscles might be fine, but your stomach might encounter some other issues.
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 gagillion milligram tablet that I bought from my health catalog.”
This myth was propagated by Linus Pauling, a distinguished scientist of the 20th century. 4Offit, 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 as a scientist from the majority of his successful career, a lot of people believed him.
However, study after study, conducted both before, during, and now after the time of Pauling, has shown that the ingestion of increased levels of Vitamin C does not treat or prevent the common cold. 5Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. NCBI.In fact, vitamins and supplements across the board are generally found to have little to no positive impact on overall health; high enough dose of certain vitamins actually lead to a myriad of health disorders, from diarrhea to kidney stones.
The North American Dietary Reference Intake actually recommends you ingest between 75 and 90 milligrams of Vitamin C a day, 6United 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. 7Oranges are actually not the best source of vitamin C per serving. Other good sources are kale, papayas, kiwi, mangoes, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, ...continueSo anyone who eats a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies is sure to be getting enough vitamins and minerals without needing to take any additional supplements. 8Obviously, I realize that some people have deficiencies and/or they cannot eat certain foods, and so they are forced to take supplements. This is ...continue
Now that I have explained all of that, 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 cold.
Hopefully, you realize 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 for all of my daily Vitamin C supplement ingesters, a small percentage of you may occasionally notice reduced durations of colds. But 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 an aging scientist.
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 commit.
So if a police officer is undercover inside of a drug cartel and he convinces a member of the cartel to buy a bunch 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 his actions are documented by the undercover cop, then the entrapment argument does not apply.
The cop is also completely allowed to straight up lie if he is asked if he is a cop. 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.
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. 9Wolraich, 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. 10Hoover, D., & Milich, R. (1994). Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions. NCBI.And here’s one more for shits and giggles. 11Wolraich, M., Wilson, D., & White, J. (1995). The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis. NCBI.
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. 12Kanarek, 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, 13Millichap, 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.
On top of that, another huge factor that parents overlook is the plethora of other ingredients that are in foods that contain sugar. 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 need to all remain aware of is that sometimes kids are just fucking batshit crazy. I worked at a Boys & Girls Club for 6 years and if I learned one thing, 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. 14Hammond, 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? Absolutely not.
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.
The two put forth the notion that most people only use a percentage of the total potential of their brain power, and people with greater intelligence were capable of utilizing more of their brain. Over the next few decades, the percentage attributed to the layman was eventually falsely specified to be 10 percent, and the myth has carried on ever since. 15Jarrett, 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 help to 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 portions of our brain that contain glial cells is completely false.
There may still be a lot we do not 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.16Boyd, 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 that are not being used. 17Cherry, 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, and we have yet to find any such regions.
So to all of 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.
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!”
If you were surprised by any of these societal myths, just take a second and consider the sheer volume of the number of 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 is 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:
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 which 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.||↑||Offit, Paul. (2013, July 20). The vitamin myth: Why we think we need supplements. The Atlantic.|
|5.||↑||Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. NCBI.|
|6.||↑||United States Department of Agriculture. (2000). Vitamin C.|
|7.||↑||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.|
|8.||↑||Obviously, I realize that some people have deficiencies and/or they cannot eat certain foods, and so they are forced to take supplements. This is fine. I am more hoping to sway the people who take a million vitamins every day hoping they will live to be 113, as there is no evidence that vitamins will allow anyone to do that.|
|9.||↑||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.|
|10.||↑||Hoover, D., & Milich, R. (1994). Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions. NCBI.|
|11.||↑||Wolraich, M., Wilson, D., & White, J. (1995). The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis. NCBI.|
|12.||↑||Kanarek, R. B. (2011). Artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Oxford University Press.|
|13.||↑||Millichap, G. J., & Yee, M. M. (2012). The diet factor in attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder. AAP News & Journals.|
|14.||↑||Hammond, C. (2013, July 23). Does sugar make children hyperactive? BBC.|
|15.||↑||Jarrett, C. (2014, July 24). All You Need To Know About the 10 Percent Brain Myth, in 60 Seconds. Wired.|
|16.||↑||Boyd, R. (2008, February 7). Do people only use 10 percent of their brains? Scientific American.|
|17.||↑||Cherry, K. (2016, September 6). Do you really use only 10 percent of your brain? Verywell.|