Cracked fallacies

By Phil Plait | March 18, 2009 9:30 am

The website is becoming a favorite of mine. Of course, a lot of the humor is childish — it’s Cracked, duh — but there is a core of wisdom and truth to their posts that attracts me.

Today they posted 5 Ways ‘Common Sense’ Lies To You Everyday which is actually a pretty good introduction to this particular flavor of uncritical thinking. It uses humor and a good grasp of current stuff that’s hip (and some fairly NSFW things too, just so’s you know) to show you just why what you’re thinking is probably wrong, or at least under the influence of forces you may not be aware of. And, they use asteroid impacts as an example. Score!

As many people have said, common sense is neither. This article may actually help.

Tip o’ the blinders to JokerMage.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Skepticism

Comments (24)


    Phil Plait: “The website is becoming a favorite of mine. Of course, a lot of the humor is childish…”

    That’s what I like about it and The Onion, too!

    Which explains my mind-set! :-)

  2. Big Al

    My work web gurus blocked the link; bummer.

  3. Jeff

    Good article. May I also recommend Michael Blastland’s similar and excellent series of articles on the BBC website, desperately trying to get the British public to think a little about the numbers and figures the media spews upon them:

    (His archive can be accessed from the pull-down menu in the top right).

  4. Bill
  5. Michelle

    I love cracked. They bring a lot of things home. Today’s article about 911 operators is pretty enlightening.

  6. You were right – that was good. Except that most of it is true (true that people believe those things). I guess that makes it sad.

  7. Colby

    A good site indeed. I’m pretty sure I’m the one that got it blocked at my office, because I spent a good 4 hours on it when I first discovered it.

  8. Brian

    Yay for a clearly stated popular explanation of the regression fallacy.

  9. Gary Ansorge

    Dang! Now I have to ad Cracked to my fav list,,,

    GAry 7

  10. The website is becoming a favorite of mine

    And the subliminal “Death From the Skies” reference was totally unintentional? :-)

    I liked number 1: “This Is Why The World Seems to be Full of Dicks” fallacy.

  11. Whoever runs that site has got a brain in his head. Every day, they seem to come up with stuff that’s both funny and insightful.

    one of my favorite recent quotes: “And as any scientist can tell you, when confronted with two possible theories, the scientific method dictates that we must go with the one that is awesome.”

  12. Mike:

    “And as any scientist can tell you, when confronted with two possible theories, the scientific method dictates that we must go with the one that is awesome.”

    Would that be “Occam’s Razor of Awesomeness”?

  13. Trebuchet

    A little Bad Astronomy in there: What’s that asteroid doing burning up when it’s clearly thousands of miles above the atmosphere? And appears to be on a trajectory to miss, as well.

  14. schism

    Would that be “Occam’s Razor of Awesomeness”?

    More like “Occam’s Chainsaw.”

  15. Barry

    I like Cracked, but sometimes its science “reporting” is a little bit… dubious.

    Google for “5 Ways People Are Trying to Save the World (That Don’t Work)” and you’ll get something that could have been ghost-written by Bjorn Lomborg. Three of them have little to do with environmentalism, and the other two are last-ditch measures.

    Fortunately a different chap wrote the fallacies article.

  16. I love Cracked as well, I’ve been reading it for years. But as Barry said, sometimes the science is dubious, but, of course, it is a humor website. So I probably shouldn’t get upset when they say something wrong.

    Dan Dennett was actually in Minnesota about a year ago and I was going to ask him about Cracked’s (that just looks wrong) article on scientific ways a zombie outbreak could really happen. One of them actually has to do with the parasite that gets into the mouse that needs to get into the cat (Cracked says 50% of humans already have this) that Dennett uses in some of his talks (or maybe it was the ant climbing the grass to get into cows, one or the other). I never did get to ask him because I thought it was too stupid a question for a Q&A and then the next talk in the morning he constantly had people talking to him so never got the chance.

    I just found the link to the Cracked article I mentioned and posted it on my name above for those that want to check out that article.

  17. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    So I was, like, why isn’t that “WiseCracked”? … and, then it hit me, duh, it’s like common sense, man. No one will be any the wiser from it.

  18. Snoof

    They got Murphy’s law wrong, though. It’s “If there are two ways to do something, and one of those will result in disaster, then someone will pick that way.” Less pessimistic than “If it can go wrong, it will.”

  19. Gonzo

    That was a poor article. I’m not even sure the author knows what they’re talking about.

  20. eddie

    And don’t forget the “Craptions.”

    My favorite (caption contains the universal adjective; sorry, doc. Delete comment at your discretion)

  21. eddie

    And upon further review, also contains sculpted genitalia. Sorry again, Phil.

    But dang, it’s funny, in an evolutionary sort of way.

  22. DaveS

    “..the Titanic wouldn’t have sank…”

    Are their editors also in junior highs school, as well as their writers?

  23. Escuerd

    I’m starting to like that site too, Phil.

    I hadn’t heard of the “historian’s fallacy” before, but I’m glad to have a name for it. I’ve heard people level criticisms at NASA that seemed to have this fallacy at their roots. That’s not to say that all criticisms are unwarranted (and there’s always room for constructive criticism). This was more like anti-NASA invective, I suppose.


    “..the Titanic wouldn’t have sank…”

    Are their editors also in junior highs school, as well as their writers?

    That caught my attention too. I don’t know where they’re from, but I’ve noticed that, at least in East Texas (I don’t know how large a region I can generalize this to), a lot of people use the preterite form of irregular verbs to form a participle. E.g. you hear a lot of things like: “have swam”, “have drove”, “have ate”. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “have did” yet, though.

  24. Not sure if this fits into the “Historians’ Fallacy” theory, but I remember Cracked magazine from when I was growing up. And yes, it was childish and immature, and a pathetic little brother to the far superior Mad magazine.
    Guess they finally grew up.


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