Carl Bergstrom: ‘People are using data to bullshit’

August 01, 2020 at 03:00PM

The evolutionary biologist on data manipulation, fake news, and the importance of using science as a lie detector

Carl Bergstrom is a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Washington in Seattle. More than a decade ago he conducted research on the role of government in pandemic planning, and has been a trenchant critic of the current response. He is the co-author with his colleague Jevin D West of a new book, Calling Bullshit: The Art of Scepticism in a Data-Driven World.

Your book is very timely in that it suggests the exponential spread of bullshit would eventually crash against fact in spectacular fashion. Is this what we are seeing with the pandemic?
It was finished just before all of this, in a different world. Ironically, a bunch of us were working on a paper about “human collective behaviour as crisis discipline”. We felt we needed to understand that before the shit hit the fan. Unfortunately the paper was still being revised when the pandemic started.

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