Detecting Bullshit in the Modern Age

Instructor: Kelly O’Donnell
Time: Fridays, 10 AM – 12:40 PM
(Note: “Official” course title, for registration and transcripts, is Detecting Nonsense in the Modern Age)
Course Code: MHC 325
Modality: Online

Completed Macaulay Seminar 3

In today’s world, people are constantly inundated with information, from online publications, traditional media, politicians, and their social media feeds. Not all information is properly vetted by the relevant expert communities, especially when it comes to scientific information in the public sphere.

In “Detecting Bullshit in the Modern Age”, we will explore the bullshit that parades around as science and how we can be better at detecting and discounting this noise. This course is based on and expanded from the excellent work of two biologists at University of Washington, who developed a curriculum of the same name (find it at

We will practice finding nonsensical claims and evaluating what exactly makes them bullshit. This effort will require applications of statistics, data visualization, and information literacy and builds on the skills that students develop in their seminar 3 Science Forward courses.


Bergstrom & West’s Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World (2021, Random House)

Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018, NYU Press)