The need to test claims – or else

All the time, people are making claims that are not challenged and tested. Sometimes the results can have life and death consequences, as revealed in this astonishing story of how fake bomb detectors were sold in strife-ridden Iraq.

It is outrageous that someone should sell a device intended to save lives knowing that they did not work. But it is equally amazing that the devices were not tested. When faced with the offer of any such device, any potential purchaser should ask two fundamental questions:

  1. Does it work? Let’s test it.
  2. How does it work? If you can’t explain it to me, I’m going to assume you’re a fraudster.

This approach is valid in a whole variety of situations from homeopathy to economics to social policy. What we all need is to exercise critical thinking and I’ve suggested some tips here.


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