A Californian couple recently claimed they’d barely eaten for nine years, sustaining themselves on the energy of the Universe alone. If that’s true it challenges everything we know about how life works.
So how can we know if it’s true?
In his best-selling book ‘The Demon Haunted World’ the cosmologist Carl Sagan proposed a ‘Baloney Detection Kit’ for sifting sense from nonsense using nine basic questions of science:
Is it confirmed by multiple, independent sources? Someone else has seen this, right? Can it be repeated under controlled conditions?
Has it survived substantive, evidence-based debate by experts? Would it hold up against serious examination from people who know a thing or two?
Does it hold up without the support of authority figures? It doesn’t matter how many Hollywood celebrities or spiritual leaders sign off on this thing; it doesn’t make it true.
Is it the only explanation on offer? What other theories have been tested?
Would this have any support were it not appealing or intriguing? Is it the sort of thing we wish were true?Find reasons why you might have to reject it.
Any hard data that can be independently tested? If it’s real it must generate something we can measure.(Check the bank statements of people who don’t eat. They probably don’t use the toilet either, check their water bills as well).
Is there a logical chain of argument to support this idea? Even if we can prove the initial premise (that people don’t need food) what supports the conclusion it’s the Universe keeping us alive? Does every single link in that chain work?
Would it survive Occam’s Razor? Is there a simpler explanation here?
Can this be falsified? What can’t be tested can’t be proved or disproved. Which leaves us with just another story.
There will always be more stories but there is only ever one truth. Let’s find it.