The Baloney Detection Kit

If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. In an age of instant communication and sensationalism, it is extremely easy to fall for baloney (or as the French say, “bulls***”). “Cure For Cancer Found In Beetle!” “Man Raised From The Dead In Africa!” “Free $1 Million If You Sign Up Here!” “Woman Healed Of AIDS!” We’ve all seen the sensational claims…but when you get down to investigating the claims themselves, the sensationalism dissolves into quackery. Whether it’s miracle cures, faith healing or free money, the ability of humans to deceive themselves and others is matched by no other animal on Earth. Carl Sagan came up with a method of “detecting” falsehoods, hoaxes, scams, and flat-out b.s. with his Baloney Detection Kit. The “kit” consists of ten questions that determine if a specific claim is an evidence-supported theory or baloney…


  1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
  2. Does the source make similar claims?
  3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
  4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
  5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
  6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
  7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
  8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
  9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
  10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

The next time you come across an out-of-this-world claim, ask yourself these 10 questions.

Michael Shermer made a video with the Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason And Science on Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit: