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Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

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Penn & Teller: Bullshit! was a TV infotainment show in which a wide range of topics were investigated and debunked. The show ran for eight seasons starting in 2003 and ending in 2010. As the name suggests, it featured magicians Penn & Teller.

Covered topics of interest to skeptics and rationalists included religions, cults, New Age, alternative medicine, conspiracy theories, the anti-vaccination movement, and so on.

Unfortunately a number of episodes are bullshit themselves and veer off into pseudoscepticism and denialism. Generally speaking, the show's coverage of woo and general crankery is pretty good, while episodes that deal with social trends, politics, environmentalism, and economics vary in quality—in no small part due to the pretty strong Libertarian beliefs of Penn & Teller.

We keep articles on most, if not all, topics they cover. Many of the episodes are educational, and — if nothing else — humorous to watch if you have about a half an hour to kill, and several of the episodes have grown to become classics within the sceptical community.

It is like a more profane, less broad version of Adam Ruins Everything.

Contents

Bullshit on Bullshit![edit]

You know, we first started doing Bullshit!—I say with a great deal of shame, that I pitched it a little cynical. I pitched it with the idea that "Well, even if people hate us and we get hate mail you'll still get attention". Which I now find repulsive. But I did that.
—Penn Jillette[1]

The show has been criticized for focusing on appeals to emotion, especially on topics related to libertarianism. For example, in an episode about the Endangered Species Act, the show uses a highly disabled woman in a wheelchair who cannot build her dream house on a specific lot because it is also a habitat for an endangered bird as an argument against the Act. Whatever valid criticisms they may have of a subject are sometimes obscured by over-reliance on shock and emotion instead of logic and facts.

The show is also well-known for ad hominem attacks against people who support the position being questioned by the show. The format of Bullshit! is such that individuals on both sides of an issue are interviewed by themselves, not in a debate format, allowing Penn to take potshots at them through post-production narration.[note 1] Penn has explained this is a comedy tactic and that he does not really support insulting a person if you debate them,[citation needed] and it also forms part of their apparent defence against libel as it's fine to insult people quite dramatically, but you can't call them charlatans, as explained on the show.

Some episodes of the show feature individuals from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank opposed to nearly every form of regulation of business, to argue Penn and Teller's position. The two are both fellows at the Institute[2][3] but the potential conflict of interest is never mentioned; in one episode Penn even describes the Cato institute as "some wonky think tank in Washington".[4]

However, Penn and Teller at least have the decency to openly admit both their usage of emotional appeals and their bias, and regularly point out the unscientific and simplified format of their show. They also planned to make a "Bullshit of Bullshit!" finale, but the show ended too abruptly for this to be realized.[citation needed] In November 2015 Penn said "we may still do "Bullshit of Bullshit".[5]

Episode guide[edit]

This is a list of all Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episodes, alongside a brief synopsis and our own rating of the quality of the episode. Since the name of the show is Bullshit!, the basic presupposition of the programme is that the topic covered in each episode of the show is indeed to be considered bullshit, which Penn & Teller spend the episode trying to argue that it is.

Thus, a positive rating from us for an episode will read Bullshit! (meaning that the topic of that episode was indeed bullshit), while Not Bullshit! means that Penn & Teller were mistaken in calling bullshit on that particular topic. Episodes rated with Partial Bullshit! denote, as the name suggests, instances where the jury is still out on Penn & Teller's decision to call bullshit on the topic in question, or where the episode consists of a mixed bag of fact and error.

A few first-season episodes treat 2 subjects; those are listed separately with an a or b suffix.

Season 1 (2003)[edit]

Talking to the Dead[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.01 Talking to the Dead Bullshit! Examines mediums and the techniques they use such as cold reading and hot reading. It's all bullshit; in other news, the Earth is round. Features Rosemary Altea doing a few readings, and interviews with John Edward and James van Praagh. Joe Nickell and a guy from the Center for Inquiry provide some comments, and mentalist Mark Edward does the same tricks without a hotline to the dead.

Alternative Medicine[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.02 Alternative Medicine Bullshit! Features a foot masseuse reflexologist claiming to want to revolutionize healthcare. Next up is William H. Philpott who claims magnets can basically cure everything, and even warns that magnets are so powerful you can get you addicted to them; Robert Park replies calling it "mental masturbation".

Last but not least is an insufferable chiropractor who also claims he can cure everything, and whose youngest patient was "about a minute and a half old". If you think exposing your newborn baby to a chiropractic "treatment" is anything but dangerous, irresponsible and abusive, you are not fit to keep custody of children for another minute. The reform chiropractic Charles E. Duvall responds to all of this.

Alien Abductions[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.03 Alien Abductions Bullshit! ALIENS! ... and those who claim they were abducted by them. Coverage of the 2003 Bay Area UFO Expo, including; David Icke (lecturing on—what else—Reptilians),[note 2] mad surgeon Roger Leir, eerie twins Shurlene Wallace & Earlene Carr, as well as a buffet of different crank visitors. In the words of one disappointed visitor: "the only thing I've seen here is a lot of New Age, what I call, fu-fu".[note 3] There are some good comedy moments here.[note 4] The episode also features "regression therapist" Barbara Lamb and some of her patients victims, recounting various implanted memories about marrying and honeymooning aliens.

End of the World[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.04 End of the World Bullshit! Follows the eccentric (but clearly well-meaning) Bruce Beach, doomsday prepper extraordinnaire, on an outdoor promenade above and around his Ark Two DIY fallout shelter, takes part in Tom Brown's Survival School, where they teach you how to build a coffin makeshift shelter from tons of wet leaves and branches.[note 5] Self-described "rogue scholar" John Hogue explains the art of shoehorning various mined quotes from Nostradamus' prophecies into any and all context of your choice, e.g. current world events. James Randi demonstrates what an asshole Hogue is, by proving that his predictions retroactively change in new editions of his books after the predictions turn out wrong. Taking the crank nonsense to a crescendo, Christian Book of Revelation literalists Hal Lindsey and Texe Marrs provide an abundance of crackpot quotes for us to decorate their RationalWiki pages with.

Second Hand Smoke[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.05a Second Hand Smoke Not Bullshit! This episode proclaims that smoking bans are bullshit since they infringe on personal freedom, and to "back up" this opinion it tries to claim that second-hand smoke is not damaging. Whether smoking bans are bullshit is a matter of opinion, and the episode presents a rather one-sided debate of the argument, but it's not bullshit as such (at least not objectively). A complete discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this synopsis.

The claim that second-hand smoke is not damaging is just complete bullshit.

Fairly early on the old "I've been a bartender 40 years and it hasn't affected me, and I know someone who's been in the business 60 years and he's still fine at 85" argument comes oozing out of the TV screen. Well, good for them, but we all know this sort of anecdotal evidence has no value. Penn & Teller rightfully point out the bullshit of this type of argument on the woo-related episodes, but use it themselves here. Shame on you!

It then attempts to debunk some science reports; mainly the 1993 EPA report[6] which claims about 3,000 deaths in the US annually from second-hand smoke. Several "experts" claim that the report shows no statistically significant risks. This claim relies on a technicality surrounding the cut-off for significant p-valuesWikipedia's W.svg; although 0.05 is the most common number used, different kinds of studies and experiments may use a different significance level. Epidemiological studies sometimes use 0.1, and the results were significant at this level. In addition to this, the critics of the report falsely claim that a risk ratioWikipedia's W.svg of 2 or 3 is generally considered significant, but it's actually about 1.1-1.3.[7] Basically, they bought into the FUD of the tobacco industry.

Several tobacco companies took legal action against the report, which was ruled in favour of the tobacco industry in 1998.[8] Therefore, the report is false, because courts are a great way to solve scientific disputes.[9]

It also examines a 1998 WHO report,[10] and claims that it didn't find any correlation between second-hand smoke exposure and lung cancer. This is not entirely true, as it did show a correlation between second-hand smoke exposure and lung cancer (just look at the graphs). Depending on the type of exposure, the chance of getting lung cancer increases 11% to 16%. The study did conclude that this was "not statistically significant", and it's not a very strong link (risk ratio of 1.44[7]), but that doesn't mean it's non-existent; especially if many other studies have come to the same conclusion. In the end, "statistically significant" is just what you define it to be.

Another claim is that "businesses are being forced to shut down" due to smoking bans. There have been no reputable studies linking smoking bans with negative economic impact; all studies which did show such a link were supported by by tobacco industry (94% of such sponsored studies showed a negative impact).[11][12]

P&T later admitted in a Q&A session at The Amaz!ng Meeting that they were absolutely very likely wrong about the dangers of second-hand smoke, but Penn claimed that the research at the time did not support it well. Penn also says that the science is also discussed for just "3 lines" and that it was mostly about personal freedom. This is complete bullshit, as the episode spends significant amounts of time on the science and doesn't mince words about it with quotes such as "in short, they lied" and "not one study anywhere offers conclusive proof that breathing in second-hand smoke causes cancer. [shouting] NOT ONE!".

They issued a correction on the DVD release of the show.[13]

Baby Bullshit[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.05b Baby Bullshit Bullshit! Focuses on some of the crap being peddled to young parents to make their babies smarter, such as Mozart effect products, Robert Titzer's Your Baby Can Read method and "baby whisperer" Tracy Hogg, who shares some helpful advice such as "All babies [..] need to eat" and "We really want to be gentle with our babies". Thanks Tracy!

Paediatrician Harvey Karp, explains his book The happiest baby on the block as "I take scientific information and convert it into information that's easy to follow for everybody", to which Penn replies, "In other words, he's collected age-old parental techniques and packaged them into a slick message that desperate parents are only too eager to buy". While the book does seem somewhat light in content,[14] it seems to be helpful for many people, and "age-old" techniques are not necessarily "good" techniques.

Sex, Sex, Sex[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.06 Sex, Sex, Sex Bullshit! Features some sex-related bullshit, mostly on penis enlargement and breast enlargement woo, and that the focus on the size of these parts is bullshit in the first place.

Even size king Ron JeremyWikipedia's W.svg admits that dick size doesn't really matter. He peddles ExtenZeWikipedia's W.svg herbal penis enlargement pills anyway which, guess what? Don't work. ExtenZe has since been convicted for false advertising claims several times, and has been strongly criticized for causing various side-effects (though never penis growth).[15]

Apparently boob enlargement by hypnosis is also a thing. wtf?

Feng Shui[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.07a Feng Shui Bullshit! This episode is one of the classics[note 6]; three Feng Shui practitioners separately rearrange the same living room according to their "scientific" Feng Shui standards to maximize the flow of chi; to everyone's surprise as expected the result is three very different arrangements. Feng Shui is "explained" by one woo-meister as "what we're looking for is how the energies of chi are playing a game of cosmic game of musical chairs", and by another as "Chi is life force energy, it's what the molecules are made out of. I can't explain it in super-scientific terms, but it's energy". Super scientific energy games of cosmic musical chairs! Yowzers! Also shows a beauty parlour that does "Feng Shui haircuts" for $150 which is indistinguishable from a $16 haircut.

Bottled Water[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.07b Bottled Water Bullshit! Another classic. Handles the increasing popularity of bottled water sold in stores. The general premise of the episode is that bottled water is neither safer nor better tasting than regular tap water. The water steward scene is brilliant.[16]

This is Teller's favourite episode.[17]

Creationism[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.08 Creationism Bullshit! Ah, creationists are always fun. The renowned stand-up comedian Duane Gish from the Institute for Creation Research offers comic relief in the form of Grand Canyon flood geology and other nonsense, which Eugenie Scott needlessly refutes. Much of the episode focuses on the battle to teach the controversy in Cobb County, GeorgiaWikipedia's W.svg. Note that the ruling did not rule that creationism can be taught in schools, and specifically disallows teaching it,[18] something quite a few press accounts got wrong (including this episode) due to some unfortunate wording. The "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" sticker shown in the episode was removed in 2006 following a lawsuitWikipedia's W.svg initiated by several sane parents (the lead plaintiff featured in this episode).

It is perhaps interesting to note that the first argument put forward against teaching creationism isn't that it's complete bollocks, but "if we pay for it with taxes, it can't have religion in it.[..] As long as we're all paying, no religion in school", which is a rather fundamentalist position on the separation of church and state.

Self-Helpless[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.09 Self-Helpless Bullshit! Some of the more wootastic and erroneous self help bullshit. One of the methods promises to get rid of all inner fears and problems by walking on glass and fire walkingWikipedia's W.svg based on Tony RobbinsWikipedia's W.svg's magical methods. David WilleyWikipedia's W.svg shows how this works sans magic. Hale Dwoskin shows his Sedona Method. A "stage counsellor" is shown cracking spectacularly bad jokes.

ESP[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.10 ESP Bullshit! Features various ESP/psychic bullshit.

Jack Houck is shown giving a spoon bending party, where people bend spoons by shouting "BEND!" at them while at the same time wiggling them around with their hands; guess which of the two actions cause the spoon to bend, psychokinesis or wiggling them with your hands? Marc Klaas, father of the kidnapped (and later found murderedWikipedia's W.svg Polly Klaas recounts his experiences with psychic detectives, which of course didn't find jack shit. Russel TargWikipedia's W.svg "explains" some how his remote viewing program; this has been refuted many times, and Ray HymanWikipedia's W.svg and James Randi does it once more.

If the spoon-bending class wasn't enough for you, Wayne Carr (alleged Dr.) shows has a class in remote viewing. Monica Diedrich, animal communicator; talks to goats All-round crank Bruce Goldberg goes into his past life regression therapy, which makes the outlandish claim that he's regressed one patient into 5 million years ago.[note 7]

Eat This![edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.11 Eat This! Bullshit! About several food-related topics. The first part is about weight loss and the "magical" fad diets that turn out to be not so magical after all. After this is a part about GMO, organic food (which is not completely bullshit),[note 8] and raw foodism. Features Greenpeace at its craziest, Organic Consumers AssociationWikipedia's W.svg, and a bunch of raw food neohippies.

Norman Borlaug shows up to point out the bulshit on GMO; the raw food proponents are batshit crazy, and provided us with quotes to decorate the GMO and raw foodism pages.

Features Dennis T. Avery from the Hudson InstituteWikipedia's W.svg, who is opposed to any organic farming, and whose organization receives "donations" from the food industry (such as Monsanto).[19][20]

Ouija Boards[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.12a Ouija Boards Bullshit! Shows several witches from modern Salem use a ouija board to contact the spirit of a burnt witch. It's painfully embarrassing to watch as these people seem genuinely sincere. Some random people use a spirit board at the location of William FrawleyWikipedia's W.svg's death, and "answer" some basic questions with it, which only "works" due to the ideomotor effect, and fails when they're blindfolded.

Near Death Experiences[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.12b Near Death Experiences Bullshit! Shows several near-death experience (NDE) survivors, NDE "inventor" Raymond MoodyWikipedia's W.svg, and woosters in wedlock Jan and John Price who wrote a book about it. Barry BeyersteinWikipedia's W.svg, Loren PankratzWikipedia's W.svg, and James Whinnery show up with reality based explanations.

Environmental Hysteria[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
1.13 Environmental Hysteria Partial Bullshit! By far the biggest bullshit in this Bullshit! episode is the FUD surrounding global warming; Penn shouts: "WE'RE NOT SURE YET" at the top of his voice. To help them with this is Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute who trots out the ice age fallacy. In 2003, when this episode aired, there was already abundant data available on global warming to be reasonably sure that it's real, and caused by human activity.[21] At the same time Taylor handwaves any potential harmful impact on the basis that we're doing fine so far.

In later interviews, Penn stated that anthropogenic global warming was probably real, but claimed that he was talking about not knowing whether "the whole package" (i.e. the need for government intervention, presumably as opposed to a self-correcting market) was real.[22][23]

The rest of the episode focuses on the perceived "hysterical" and "political" aspects of environmentalism. The show does a bit of Nutpicking: Julia Butterfly HillWikipedia's W.svg, who believes she can communicate with trees, and Ross GelbspanWikipedia's W.svg, an activist (not scientist) who is indeed rather alarmist.[note 9]

A refutation is offered in the form of Bjørn Lomborg, also not a scientist whose work has been excoriated by numerous actual scientists such as E.O. Wilson[citation needed] and Stephen Schneider[citation needed] and not just hippies and eco-nuts, and a 20-something old spokesperson at an environmentalist rally who's asked critical questions (but doesn't really have an answer ready at any of them). Patrick MooreWikipedia's W.svg, the Greenpeace-founder-turned-critic, provides commentary on most issues throughout the episode.

In the episodes that focus on woo, Penn often points out people's lack of credentials and counters woomeisters' nonsense with actual scientists, but here, only non-scientists represent the environmentalist view. There is very little actual content.

It laments some of the anti-corporation views of the environmentalists. Well, little wonder, given that corporations have proven to be untrustworthy time and time again in the case of tobacco, asbestos, global warming, ozone depletion, etc.

Season 2 (2004)[edit]

P.E.T.A.[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.01 P.E.T.A. Partial Bullshit! The show dismisses the animal welfare movement by pointing out a few extremists (Steven Best, Pamelyn FerdinWikipedia's W.svg, Jerry VlasakWikipedia's W.svg, Rod CoronadoWikipedia's W.svg, Gary YourofskyWikipedia's W.svg, ALF) who believe in using violence to achieve their ends and attempting to establish a spurious link between them and PETA (PETA officially opposes the use of violence[24]), and interviewing a few hippies who make illogical arguments for animal liberation rather than intellectuals in the movement. The issue of factory farming (what most serious animal welfare thinkers consider as the biggest problem) is hardly mentioned at all.

Invites on questionable experts and non-experts, such as David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization that lobbies on behalf of the fast food, alcohol, and tobacco industries.[25][26][27] Dennis Prager and Ted Nugent both respond in character: ignorant, loud-mouthed, and obnoxious.

Penn makes repeated ad hominem attacks on the "skinny vegetarians". Ironically, Penn switched to a mostly vegan diet in 2015 in order to lose weight after being hospitalized for high blood pressure.[28] Guess being obese isn't so great, after all.

To be fair, there is plenty of bullshit in PETA and the animal rights movement in this episode such as PETA's staunch opposition to animal testing, its euthanasias of animals, and the aforementioned extremists.

We'll leave you with this quote: "Teller and I would personally kill every chimp in the world with our bare hands to save one streetjunkie with AIDS".

Safety Hysteria[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.02 Safety Hysteria Bullshit! Irrational fear of terrorism, crime, electromagnetism, Cell phone radiation, germs, school shootings, mad cow disease, and the media's fear mongering about some of these topics.

Features questionable expert for hire Steve Milloy and his webshite "junkscience.com" being a stopped clock in refuting Sam Milham's EM radiation nonsense and the Waveshield device which offers "protection" against it.

Other experts are David RopeikWikipedia's W.svg, Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingWikipedia's W.svg, ACLUWikipedia's W.svg, Michael ThunWikipedia's W.svg.

The claim that you can't get Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease from eating beef is astonishingly wrong, as a clear link is well known, and has been for some time. The risk is extremely rare though—not in the least due to government regulations regarding the quality of beef,[29] so it is bullshit to be afraid of it, but for different reasons than P&T tell you.

The Business of Love[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.03 The Business of Love Bullshit with ♥! Examines some nonsense about love, chiefly the bogus "advice" that some people peddle. This is one of those episodes that's more on the entertainment side of infotainment. A lot of the episode of about some girl doing a speed-dating thing, where you basically repeat the same conversation 25 times.[note 10]

David P. BarashWikipedia's W.svg, co-author of The myth of monogamy, explains that "virtually no such thing as a truly monogamous species" and looks at the balls of a goat.

Sherrie SchneiderWikipedia's W.svg, co-author of "The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right", who gives phone advice whether to "keep him or dump him", phone advice based on critical information such as whether "the guy" called a day too soon or late. Another piece of sage advice is "4 hours?! We never talk to them four 4 hours!" Having a good conversation! Shocking indeed! All men are dogs and must be manipulated into having a relationship with you, apparently.

John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus parts with ground-breaking revolutionary wisdom, such as that actively listening to your partner when they're talking is appreciated, and that "I love you so much" is a good thing to say to your partner.

Helen FisherWikipedia's W.svg explains the physiology of love a little bit.

War on Drugs[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.04 War on Drugs Partial Bullshit! That the war on drugs is an epic failure has become only more apparent since this episode first aired.

As one would expect of libertarians, P&T advocate full drug liberalization (including manufacture and trade). Whether this is such a great idea remains to be seen, as not all drugs are created equal (meth, for example, is much more addicting and dangerous than something like MDMA).

Bob WeinerWikipedia's W.svg and David Evans of the "Drug free schools coalition" try to make a case for the war on drugs. Jacob SullumWikipedia's W.svg from Reason magazine and former drug smuggler Richard Stratton from High TimesWikipedia's W.svg, and Keith StroupWikipedia's W.svg make a counter to this; note that both are opinionated magazine publishers, not actual experts, which might explain some of the goofs described below.

Self-styled "America's Toughest Sheriff" Joe Arpaio quite possibly says some of the stupidest things on this show, such as implying that if drugs were legalized doctors would start operating on people while under the influence of drugs.

Finally it briefly makes a case for medical marijuana.

A note on the statistics on drug use that are given: it's true that drug use increased in the late 1990s and early 2000s,[30] but it was much higher in the late 1970s and early 1980s (earlier figures are difficult to come by).[31][32] The people in favor of the war on drugs claim that drug use is "lower across the board", and this seems to be correct if you look at the number since the 1970s (Penn claims they're "pulled out of his ass", which they're not). Whether this is the result of the War on drugs, or due to other factors, is of course up for debate.

The claim that you can buy "a bag" of 80 to 90 percent of pure heroin at $4 also seems strange. One source has lists $10 for a "stamp bag" which is about 25% pure,[33] another mentions that prices can "go as low" as $6 in the larger cities, but are $30 to $40 in other areas,[34] yet another mentions that one gram is about $131,[35] and a fourth source lists $400 for a gram at 40% purity.[36] While it's true that heroin prices have fallen (which mostly has to do with increased supply), the figures don't even come close to "$4 a bag at 90% purity".

But even if a single dose is (fairly) cheap, that doesn't mean an addiction is cheap. A single dose is about 0.1 gram, but an addict requires about 5 to 10 shots a day, so that's at least $50/day at a $100/gram price. So even though the price per shot is fairly low, it's still a $1500/month hobby.[37]

Finally a slight update to this episode: five states have legalized cannabis (Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.), but it's still illegal at the federal level, although the federal government is no longer being a dick about it by raiding legal (at the state level) growers—though that could change at a moment's notice.

Recycling[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.05 Recycling Not Bullshit! Argues that the government has no business spending tax dollars on recycling, and that's it's wasted money anyway since recycling doesn't work. Whether recycling should be government funded is a political question you can answer for yourself (it probably should though), but like a number of other episodes relating to libertarianism Penn & Teller's desperate search for evidence to support their pre-conceived notions leads to misrepresentation, cherry picking, and general terrible research.

For example, Daniel K. Benjamin's "Eight Great Myths"[38] is described as a "landmark paper" by Penn, and describes how recycling paper pollutes more than creating new paper. Problem is that much of it is based on a 1989 study and ignores a 1995 and 2002 update which show that recycling is less polluting.[39][40] The statement that "Recycling does not save trees" is also not exactly true.[41]

They comment that it costs more energy to recycle than it does to make a new plastic bottle, and include in the list of reasons for this the cost of transportation. But there's also a transportation cost associated with moving trash to a landfill, and the fact that the landfill is not the final destination of recycled materials would seem to bear this out. They also comment that cities often make a net loss on recycling, while failing to mention that this is also true of landfills, and that the recycled material is often then given or sold to manufacturers, so while the city takes a loss, you end up paying less for recycled goods.

They claim that aluminum is the only substance that is economical to recycle, and showed as evidence scenes of homeless people rooting around in dumpsters for empty soda cans. They neglected to mention that most U.S. states have enacted "redemption" legislation, which collects a 2-5 cent deposit on each can when purchased and pays 2-5 cents for each can turned in to a redemption station—in other words, the empty can collectors aren't being paid based on the scrap value of the aluminum: they're being paid based on what essentially amounts to a government subsidy. (This doesn't mean it isn't economical to recycle aluminum, just that their example was a bad one).

The only thing the episode really got right is that landfill space isn't running out, although there were genuine concerns in the 1980s as many smaller landfills closed due to new safety and environmental regulations, and it took some time for the larger (and confirming) landfills to be built and take up the slack. The trend since the 1980s has been toward fewer but much larger landfills. This was somewhat misjudged and hugely overblown by various media and politicians, but the problem wasn't non-existent or "made up" as was claimed.

It should be noted that in a Reddit interview Penn expressed a shift in personal belief while researching the recycling episode, saying "it's not that we're not open minded, it's just that we're working on it. So our opinions don't change when we do the show, they change when we're working on the show."[42] Yeah.

12-Stepping[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.06 12-Stepping Bullshit! Chiefly about the religious aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the complete lack of studies on the effectiveness of the program.

Yoga, Tantric Sex, Etc.[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.07 Yoga, Tantric Sex, Etc. Bullshit! Various forms New Age nonsense:

Interviews some of the more wooceptible participants in a Yoga class. The show goes on to mention that holding positions longer than 30 seconds is not beneficial. Sure, that may be, but Yoga is a combination of exercise and meditation, something they seem to forget.

At an herb convention they found someone stating "I believe that plants contain innate wisdom based on the wisdom of our planet as a being itself. They work together in synergistic ways to provide everything that we need in terms of medicine, food, all kind of healing". Well, ehh, okay...

They test Tarot cards reading with a guy from the Center for Inquiry. He goes to three different "readers", but dresses and acts different for each one: first a loser bum, then a busy businessman, and finally a family man. The readings vary wildly and are matched to his appearance and behavior, which is hardly surprising as the readers are using the same old cold reading tricks.

Next up is the capital of all things woo: Sedona and its all-powerful vortexes which can do all sorts of stuff for you. Two people follow a guide to benefit from the magic vortex powers. A great deal of Indian woo is involved, but when asked "is that an authentic native American ceremony?" the guide admits that "in no way is this a Native American traditional ceremony. I was trained by grandpa Roberts of Cherokee descent, and he told me, as long as I come from the heart, anything that I do is okay". Pete Sanders offers some "scientific" proof (and he studied at MIT, so he must be right!)

Last is some Tantra sex which basically seems to amount to clothed men trying to please naked women while the "instructor" imitates Deepak Chopra minus the accent.

"Cult and New Age researcher" Rick Ross provides commentary throughout the episode.

Fountain of Youth[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.08 Fountain of Youth Bullshit!

Death, Inc.[edit]

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No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.09 Death, Inc. Bullshit! Examines various aspects of death hamburger time, such as the taboo on death, death denialism, and the death care industry.

Mony Vital, a breatharian,[43] says he will "never ever ever ever die". In a moment of both sadness and great hilarity he died in 2013 after lecturing on his alleged immortality. He was in his late 50s. According to some of his followers, he "made a choice to leave this existence for a higher calling".[44]

It discusses the high profit margins of the death care industry and the taboo of death in the States. Some of the content seems to come straight from an episode of Six Feet Under. To help them with this are Mary RoachWikipedia's W.svg, David KesslerWikipedia's W.svg, Robert BryceWikipedia's W.svg, and a number of people not notable enough for Wikipedia or us.

Lastly it discusses cryonics. Some people from the cryogenic company "trans time" explain the whole shebang, while Wallace SampsonWikipedia's W.svg points out it's all bullshit.

Profanity[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.10 Profanity Bullshit! Opinion piece on the censorship or profanity; as one would expect, P&T take the position that government should not regulate anything.

Ginny Foster, from the now-defunct hush-up.com, claims that "when we say ugly things then that living language becomes an agent of death". Apparently, this only applies to what she considers "ugly", as it's perfectly fine to piss over Buddha: "A substitute that I have is, when I'm dealing with my students or even in my home, I would say, I swear to Buddha. Because if you're going to profane a deity, I guess it might as well not be your own." She claims she was "misunderstood" or that it was "edited wrong".[45]

Other people with similar views are Jim Lafferty from the Traditional Values Coalition, who proclaims "there are classes of words, and profanity is the lowest denomination among the classes of words." (sound familiar?) and James O'Connor, author of Cuss ControlWikipedia's W.svg.

To refute this are linguist John McWhorterWikipedia's W.svg, John Morse, "shock jock" Mancow MullerWikipedia's W.svg, Ron CollinsWikipedia's W.svg, and Robert Corn-RevereWikipedia's W.svg

It also features Lenny Bruce'sWikipedia's W.svg and George Carlin's legal troubles on the subject.

The piece ends with a cringe-worthy rant, set to the backdrop of a quote by Gerald Ford, which the Cato Institute morons misattribute to Thomas Jefferson.[46]

The Bible: Fact or Fiction?[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.11 The Bible: Fact or Fiction? Holy Bullshit! One of the better episodes of the series.[note 11] Discusses the historicity, morality, and origins of the Bible with Michael Shermer and Paul L. MaierWikipedia's W.svg. Topics covered are the two creation myths in Genesis, the global flood, Noah's ark, flood geology, evidence for the Exodus, evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection of Jesus.

It also features Roy Moore's refusal to remove the monument depicting the Ten Commandments from the Alabama supreme court.

Exercise vs. Genetics[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.12 Exercise vs. Genetics

Hypnosis[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
2.13 Hypnosis Penn has stated on several occasions that he regrets this episode, as they were too focussed on "debunking" Hypnosis and not enough on actually finding out the truth about it.[42]

Season 3 (2005)[edit]

Circumcision[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.01 Circumcision Indeterminable Tackles the controversial subject of routine circumcision of new-born infants in the United States. The chief arguments against it are lack of informed consent, reduced of sexual pleasure later in life, and lack of any significant benefits.

There is no consensus on the lack of lack of sexual pleasure, and a meta-study of 36 publications with total of 40,473 men reported that "medical male circumcision has no adverse effect on sexual function, sensitivity, sexual sensation, or satisfaction." Circumcision comes with some medical risks and disadvantages, but also some real advantages. Whether the benefits outweigh the risks is a controversial issue in the medical community.

At this time, it's impossible to confidently say if circumcision is bullshit or not.

Family Values[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.02 Family Values Bullshit! Points out that the religious right's narrative of the family values and "traditional family" is perhaps not entirely conforming to history and reality. Shocking, innit?

Family Institute of ConnecticutWikipedia's W.svg and Michael "Hitler was gay and held gay orgies" Medved espouse the common tropes that society is going to hell if we allow same-sex marriage and that children will grow up to be psychotic suicidal drug-abusing homicidal maniacs unless they grow up in a "one man and one woman"-family.

Also shows a polyamorous couple, a lesbian couple corrupting raising their adopted children, and crank ex-gay Richard Cohen who's using "the law of physics" (his words) to help fuck up a client with Reparative therapy.

Stephanie CoontzWikipedia's W.svg, Judith StaceyWikipedia's W.svg, and Nanette GartrellWikipedia's W.svg help pointing out the bullshit in all of this.

Conspiracy Theories[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.03 Conspiracy Theories Bullshit! Examines 9/11 conspiracy theories, the Moon landing hoax, JFK assassination conspiracy theories. We have extensive pages on all those topics; all the points made in the show have been refuted a thousand times.

Cranks: Clyde Lewis, Eric Hufschmid, Jimmy WalterWikipedia's W.svg, Ralph René, Jim MarrsWikipedia's W.svg, conspiracy museumWikipedia's W.svg

Sane: Phil Plait, Jodi DeanWikipedia's W.svg, Vincent BugliosiWikipedia's W.svg

Especially in the 9/11 "truther" segments it uses a lot of appeal to emotion and ad hominem. The chief "refutation" is a NYC firefighter who was present at 9/11, introducing him as "if anybody knows that 9/11 conspiracies are bullshit, it's this guy [..] he lost 50 friends when the towers collapsed", although to be fair they did include a brief but clear refutation from an actual expert. Many (but not all) 9/11 truthers consider themselves "good guys" in the sense that they think their motives are patriotic. Not that it really matters, as such, but it makes the appeal to emotion even that much more wrong. The time would have been better spent actually refuting the bullshit arguments the "truthers" make.

Apparently this episode "pissed off enough nuts that we, and even some of our crew, received serious threats".[47]

Life Coaching[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.04 Life Coaching Mostly Bullshit! Examines the phenomenon of "life coaching", which is roughly similar to hiring any ol' bum to play your therapist or psychologist (minus the many years of study and proper qualifications, of course).

The show follows several "life coaches" and some of their clients. To make a life coach, add equal parts of pop psychology, management speak, PIDOOMA, and stating the obvious. Woo is not required, but can be added in large doses according to taste.

Anti-cult activist Rick Ross doesn't like life coaches and offers commentary.

The whole "Cuddle Party" phenomenon got a bit of an unfair treatment, as it's not a "life coach" but more of a socializing event. Some of the claims are rather overblown, but if people enjoy such an event, who are we to argue? It certainly beats some asshole claiming to channel a spirit telling you to "just be happy" and charging $100 for the service.

Holier Than Thou[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.05 Holier Than Thou Partial Bullshit! Criticizes the idolization of the three most popular contemporary "saints": Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi, and The Dalai Lama.

Christopher Hitchens appears doing three of his favourite things: smoking, drinking, and calling Mother Teresa a fraud. Aroup ChatterjeeWikipedia's W.svg and a former nun back him up. Of course, whenever Hitch talks about Mother Teresa, you can be sure that Bill Donohue will come out to defend her, and this episode is no exception.

Mohandas Gandhi is introduced as a wise person from who many can learn a great deal, but Penn & Teller object to the excessive idolization and show some of his more human flaws: his famous experiments with sleeping naked next to naked women, his blatant racism against blacks in South Africa (where he lived from 1893 to 1914), his love of enemas, and that he wasn't always as non-violent as he's perceived to be. Features grandson Arun GandhiWikipedia's W.svg and Gandhi-critic G. B. SinghWikipedia's W.svg feature (whose book, Gandhi Behind the Mask of DivinityWikipedia's W.svg, is rather controversial).

The views on the 14th Dalai Lama reflected in the episode was inspired by the work of Michael ParentiWikipedia's W.svg, who wrote Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth.[48] While the show's portrayals of Mother Teresa and Gandhi are rather spot on, the inclusion of the Dalai Lama drew some controversy, as has Parenti, for assuming a strong position on an issue that is still ongoing.[49]

The episode mentions that the CIA funded guerilla fighters in Tibet. This did happen, but the situation was more nuanced than presented. Although it mentions that the funding was ended, it doesn't mention that the program was ended way back in 1974. The Dalai Lama claims he didn't know about the program (it's up to you whether you believe him) and formally denounced it. [50]

It claims that independent Tibet had a priest class living in luxury and serfs living in utter misery. Although it is true that independent Tibet was hardly ideal and had a large amount of inequality, matters are more complicated than presented.[51]

It goes on to mention that punishments like eye gouging, pulling out of tongues, and disembowelment were common. There were indeed some incidents of torture and extreme cruel punishments, but it was rare and controversial in Tibet. It certainly wasn't common.[52]

The most bullshit claim however, is that Dalai Lama would like "old Tibet with a few reforms".

In the end, there is certainly a good case to be made to debunk the Dalai Lama's perceived "holiness" among some people and the notion of independent Tibet as some sort of "paradise lost", but here Penn & Teller spread as much misinformation as they try to rectify.

College[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.06 College

Big Brother[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.07 Big Brother Bullshit! Looks at the (in)famous Patriot Act that expired in 2005 2009 2019 (maybe?)

Hair[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.08 Hair Bullshit! Examines hair woo.

Gun Control[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.09 Gun Control Not Bullshit! America's favourite controversial topic. Penn & Teller very strongly advocate against gun control and in favour of unrestricted gun ownership and carry.

A full discussion on the topic is beyond the scope of this review; see our pages on gun control and the Second Amendment for that.

They advocate heavily from originalism, which is—especially from people outside the States—a rather strange thing to do. Whatever was a good idea in 1791 is not necessarily a good idea well over 200 years later in a society that's substantially different.

It also advocates heavily that citizens need guns to protect themselves from the government and police, stating that "we need the government to be afraid of its citizens". When a pro-gun control advocate states "Call the police if you see a crime", Penn comments "Call a cop! I guess he would have a different view if he were black or Hispanic in central LA" and "But who does he call against the police?". In another instance Penn uses Jefferson's famous "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" quote—the same quote that Timothy McVeigh had on his shirt when bombing Oklahoma.[53]

There are some very deep problems with this that are not even mentioned, let alone discussed. The way it is presented in the show, it's almost as if citizens can just disobey laws if they feel it infringes on their freedom (not too dissimilar to the sovereign citizen movement and militia movement) or fight back against police if they feel they're unjust. No reasonable person will deny that police brutality is real and a serious problem (this has only become more obvious since this episode aired), but is arming people (like blacks and Hispanics in LA) with guns really a solution to this problem? There can really be only two possible outcomes when citizens start to take up arms against the police: a full-out war, or a lawless wasteland.

The second argument is the familiar "we need guns for protection" and the familiar "if we have guns we can stop bad people", "Don't punish the gun", etc. For bonus points Suzanna HuppWikipedia's W.svg recounts her surviving a mass shooting where her parents and 21 others were killed. This would, of course, have been prevented if more people had guns. Somehow. What is not mentioned is that the mass shooting would also have been prevented if the perpetrator hadn't had access to a gun.

Penn casually handwaves "150 accidental deaths a year under 17" away as a minor sacrifice for liberties, ignoring accidental deaths ages 18 and older, suicides, escalated conflicts, and all other deaths by guns that would not have happened with significantly fewer guns.

The slogan "you see drops in violent crime when more people are allowed to carry concealed handguns" is unproven by serious academic research.

Oh, and one of the pro-gun "experts" presented is Fox News columnist[54] John LottWikipedia's W.svg, who has conducted (and fabricated) some highly questionable "research."[55]

Jackie MasonWikipedia's W.svg also makes a brief appearance being profoundly stupid. "Chairs should be illegal! Do you know how many people are killed by chairs?" This is such a silly reasoning that it hardly deserved a reply.

Ghost Busters[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.10 Ghost Busters Bullshit! Ghosts. Yeah, people actually believe that sort of stuff :-/

Endangered Species[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.11 Endangered Species

Signs from Heaven[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.12 Signs from Heaven Bullshit! The omnipotent creator of the universe communicating with his creation though sandwiches, bathroom doors, and oily statues.

One woman discovers Maria in a cheese sandwich, and another found Jesus' eyes in a wooden bathroom door. The door apparently cured a headache so it must be true! Briefly shows comatose abuse victim Audrey Santo. Frederick ZugibeWikipedia's W.svg attempts to "prove" the shroud of Turin is genuine by simulating Jesus' crucifixion—as if that proves anything about the Turin shroud—by wearing reinforced leather gloves (just like Jesus).

James AlcockWikipedia's W.svg, Joe Nickell, and James Randi offer reality-based commentary in the form of psychology (e.g. pareidolia) and criticism of the Vatican and its plausible deniability policy on miracles.

The Best[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
3.13 The Best

Season 4 (2006)[edit]

The Boy Scouts[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.01 The Boy Scouts Bullshit! Shows how the Boy Scouts of America has been hijacked by the Mormons who use it to promote their moral agenda and all the bullshittery that entails. In particular their exclusion of gays and atheists, who are not allowed to join.

The ban on gay youth members was lifted in January 2014. The ban on gay leaders was lifted in July 2015.[56] You can still get kicked out for being Godless.

Prostitution[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.02 Prostitution

The Death Penalty[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.03 The Death Penalty

Cryptozoology[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.04 Cryptozoology Bullshit! Features the two most famous cryptids: the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. Well, by "features" we mean "they're talked about", as both seem to be rather shy creatures.

Richard FreemanWikipedia's W.svg and Jonathan DownesWikipedia's W.svg of the Centre for Fortean ZoologyWikipedia's W.svg hunt for the Loch Ness monster. Like everyone before them, they fail. They believe that Nessie is a giant castrated eel. The Loch Ness Monster has been debunked so many times over the course of 90 years, it would be a waste of time to do so again here.

P&T made their own Bigfoot video roughly similar to the 1967 Patterson–Gimlin filmWikipedia's W.svg and put it on a fake webpage. Bigfoot enthusiasts went crazy over it, even offering thousands of dollars for the rights to the film and interviews...

Oh, and some pesky scientists offer some reality-based criticism.

Ground Zero[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.05 Ground Zero

Pet Love[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.06 Pet Love

Reparations[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.07 Reparations

Manners[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.08 Manners

Numbers[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.09 Numbers

Abstinence[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
4.10 Abstinence Bullshit! Examines abstinence, especially abstinence-only sex education. Also looks at anti-masturbation, anti-contraception, anti-pornography, homophobia, condom denialism, and anti-abortion, all of which are prevalent in abstinence-only advocates.

Joycelyn EldersWikipedia's W.svg, Betty DodsonWikipedia's W.svg, Planned Parenthood, and the Center For Sex & Culture help P&T point out the bullshit in all of this.

Since the episode aired matters have improved somewhat; funding for abstinence-only programs has been reduced while funding for more comprehensive sex education has improved.[57]

Season 5 (2007)[edit]

Obesity[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.01 Obesity

Wal-Mart[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.02 Wal-Mart

Breast Hysteria[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.03 Breast Hysteria

Detoxing[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.04 Detoxing Bullshit! You get to watch a tube being stuck up a guy's ass and getting the shit flushed out of him. So if you're into that kind of thing, this is your episode!

Exorcism[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.05 Exorcism Bullshit! Wait what?! exorcisms don't work?! But there was a movie about it!!

Immigration[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.06 Immigration Bullshit! Some people's irrational fear of both legal and illegal immigration is not entirely founded in reality. This has only gotten more relevant since the Syrian war and Donald Trump's severe anti-immigration bullshit.

Also see Myths and facts about immigration to the United States

Handicap Parking[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.07 Handicap Parking

Mount Rushmore[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.08 Mount Rushmore Bullshit!
It could be worse...

Nukes, Hybrids, and Lesbians[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.09 Nukes, Hybrids, and Lesbians

Anger Management[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
5.10 Anger Management

Season 6 (2008)[edit]

War on Porn[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.01 War on Porn Bullshit!

New Age Medicine[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.02 New Age Medicine Bullshit! Woo, woo, and more woo... When will the woo stop?! Features acupuncture, cupping, acutonics (acupuncture with sound), and therapeutic touch (with Emily RosaWikipedia's W.svg's debunking of it)

The funniest is a woman doing color therapy/crystal healing, which "cleans out and realigns your chakras", who has some special machine for that, but "since the instructions came in Portuguese, and I don't read that, I basically abode by what I feel and intuitively sense". Right. She also "invented" her own bullshit: "quantum [spinal] alignment therapy is what I call it, because I don't have another word to give it until I create my own word". She tries it on a patient with a bad knee but "feels" the pain on the wrong knee. Oops! Saves this by saying that "this knee must be stressed from carrying all the weight from the other bad knee over here".

NASA[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.03 NASA

Dolphins[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.04 Dolphins Bullshit! New Age dolphin woo; the hyper intelligent telepathic healing fish mammals of the oceans; yadayada; we all know this.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!

One couple claim to be able to communicate with dolphin souls, or something: "I felt and saw … several dolphin spirits come to me and they asked me to become one of their ambassadors on land". Riiighht. For a $2,000 workshop, she will "lead you through an internal experience to call forth your inner dolphin, and then we'll bring our inner dolphin out, so that we're completely immersed in our dolphin aspect … that is us". There's a great example of the Retroductive reasoning (i.e. retroactively fitting your reasoning with unexpected facts) that woomeisters and wooceptible often commit. One woman wants some career advice from the dolphins (yeah, really), and when she picks the choice the dolphins "choose" for her she's very upset as she's not happy with that choice. This is then "explained" that the dolphins "revealed the depth of your feeling" and that she "needed the experience". She replies with "so for me it worked!"…

All of this happens in Sedona; which—by the way—is in the middle of a desert and some 650 kilometers removed from any ocean.

Then there's an asshole who does "dolphin assisted births". Yeah. She explains that dolphins will "help massage your baby down" and that "dolphin babies are usually very easy to have". But she never actually did one of these magical births: "a typical dolphin birth, that would be pretty hard for us to answer right now since we've yet to make it that far."

Sleep, Inc.[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.05 Sleep, Inc.

Being Green[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.06 Being Green Not Bullshit! Recycles (see what we did there?) some of the earlier bullshit from the first-season episode Environmental Hysteria. It starts with the age-old stupid ice age fallacy even before the opening credits run. In the last minute of the episode Penn says that "we don't know" if global warming is real, but you wouldn't know that if you watched the rest of the episode; most of the "good-guy guests" outright deny global warning, and no refutation to that is offered at all. Like most episodes relating to environmentalism the format consists of hippies vs. think tank hacks—the fact that scientists are ignored should set off your own bullshit detector.

It adds in criticism of carbon offsets, which are indeed partly—but not entirely—bullshit, but comparing them to indulgences is probably not really accurate. Also contains a lot Argumentum ad Gorem—some of which is valid, some less so, but none of it says anything meaningful about either global warming or carbon offsets.

1970s weatherman John ColemanWikipedia's W.svg tells us that "global warming is a scam" and that global warming is caused by the sun. Predictably we also have some libertarian think tank hacks, this time from the Cascade Policy InstituteWikipedia's W.svg and Beacon Center of TennesseeWikipedia's W.svg with the same point that have been refuted a thousand times.

The only thing it got sort-of right is that some people can indeed be suckered and guilt-tripped into spending money on "the environment"; but it's mixed in with so much bullshit—like the suggestion that people are suckered into believing global warming—that it's like dollar bills in a truck of shit: not worth digging out.

As if all of that wasn't enough bullshit on this Bullshit! episode, the Cascade Policy Institute hack also casually drops that the PRATT that DDT bans are bullshit and have murdered tens of millions of people *groan*.

Sensitivity Training[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.07 Sensitivity Training

Stranger Danger[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.08 Stranger Danger

World Peace[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.09 World Peace

Good Ol' Days[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
6.10 Good Ol' Days

Season 7 (2009)[edit]

Orgasms[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.01 Orgasms

Astrology[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.02 Astrology Bullshit! Astrology: it makes no sense and had been debunked more often than you can count, but people still believe this shit. Penn & Teller could be criticized for picking such an easy target if it weren't that so many people still believe this type of nonsense.

Video Games[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.03 Video Games Mostly bullshit! Looks at the video games-causes-violence claims. The claim that games has no effect on aggression levels doesn't really have good scientific backing, but moral panics about it are, of course, bullshit.

The Apocalypse[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.04 The Apocalypse Bullshit! About the (then-upcoming) 2012 apocalypse. As most would agree in 2017, it probably didn't happen.

Lie Detectors[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.05 Lie Detectors Bullshit! The infamous polygraph.

Organic Food[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.06 Organic Food

Taxes[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.07 Taxes

Lawns[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.08 Lawns

Stress[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.09 Stress

The Vatican[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
7.10 The Vatican Bullshit! Covers Child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and then-pope Benedict XVI's role in it.

This episode is not on the season 7 DVD, and is no longer listed on the show's official website. During an Q&A session Penn noted that this is one of his favourite episodes and also doesn't know why it doesn't appear on the DVD, having learned of this fact during an interview.[58]

Season 8 (2010)[edit]

Cheerleaders[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.01 Cheerleaders

Fast Food[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.02 Fast Food

Martial Arts[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.03 Martial Arts Bullshit! Dubious martial arts practices, as well as some of the martial arts woo.

Teen Sex[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.04 Teen Sex

Easy Money[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.05 Easy Money Bullshit!

Area 51[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.06 Area 51 Bullshit!

Criminal Justice[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.07 Criminal Justice Partial Bullshit! The duo made (or rather, supported) some rather bullshit claims with regards to the validity of forensic science, unsurprisingly with the aid of a couple more of their libertarian buddies. In fact, the entire opposition to forensics during the course of the episode consisted of nothing but a lawyer from (shock) the Cato institute, and a writer from Reason magazine, neither of whom it might be noted are scientists. Though they made some valid points with regards to forensics (such as the imprecise sciences of fingerprint & bite mark analysis), they also made (or rather, acted as the vehicle for and then didn't dispute) some rather eyebrow-raisingly crank statements, such as the following from Radley Balko, senior editor of Reason:
The problem with forensic science in general is that it isn't science, it was basically invented by the police [...] There's never been sort of a rigorous, scientific review that we've seen in every other field of science [...] There's no peer review in forensic science, there's no blind testing in forensic science.

Which is, of course, why there are no credible journals relating to forensic science. None.[59] At.[60] All.[61]

It's also rather interesting that both of the actual forensic scientists in the episode are mocked to a greater or lesser degree. On the other hand, Radley Balko is introduced as "a serious guy" with a "super cool comic book detective name" who's been "studying and writing about our [...] criminal justice system for years."

Old People[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.08 Old People A deep and resounding meh. Stereotypes against old folk. They smell, bad drivers, ugly sex, etc.

Old people discuss when and how often they have sex, young people smell at old people, and "humorist" MaddoxWikipedia's W.svg comes off as an "oldophobe" (is that a word? It is now!) with quotes like "I think old people should be shot into space", "when I think of old people I think of smell, laziness, and bitterness", etc.

Maddox commented on the episode in 2015, stating that "they had a narrative in mind, and they cut the interview to fit their narrative", and that his quotes were attempts at humour. He then proceeds to explain his main points (which weren't in the episode at all).[62] This accusation seems more than plausible. The irony is that his actual points contain enough bullshit for an episode, so there was no need for the out-of-context shit. Penn replied to Maddox stating that it's "the worst episode we did" and apologized.[5] Not sure if it's the worst episode (denying the hazards of second-hand smoke was pretty awful), but yeah, it's not very good.

Also briefly covers euthanasia with a terminally ill cancer patient. This part is actually fairly balanced for both sides, but also very short at about 4 minutes.

Self-Esteem[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.09 Self-Esteem

Vaccinations[edit]

[permalink]

No. Title Bullshit? Synopsis
8.10 Vaccinations Bullshit! Examines the anti-vaxx movement.

Penn lists this as the episode he's "most proud of".[63]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. In Family values episode, Penn did explain that the show tries to be fair and honest to interviewees by sending tapes of previous episodes to show the nature of the show.
  2. he also seems to have a beef with the oranizer Victoria Jack
  3. Full quote: "I came here expecting to hear more scientifically based data on the occurrence of the UFO phenomenon. The only thing I've seen here is a lot of new age, what I call, fu-fu; they don't have facts, they have experiences and they have lots of plugs for their books and their information and their tapes. Coming here is like being at a vendor's fair. They are selling everything, they're selling the information, they're selling the lectures, they are selling jewellery, and I'm not interested in that, I'm here for the science and there just isn't any."
  4. such as the scene with the authentic extraterrestrial probe
  5. Naturally the most important thing to do after the bombs fall. Duck and Cover everyone!
  6. We must, however, point out a rather strange and erroneous remark: "Of course, most of the people in Feng Shui China are dirt poor and have only recently, with our help, been able to feed their own people". This is just wrong, the last famine in China was the great famine in 1958-1962 Mao's "great leap forward", but there haven't been famines in China since[1]. In 2003, when this episode was aired, China was well on the way to become the power that it is today (and to which the U.S. is indebted a trillion dollars[2]). It should perhaps also be pointed out that while China does receive foreign aid, it also spends foreign aid; about $1.7 billion in 2001 (and $189.3 billion in 2011).[3]
  7. To give some sense of scale, Homo Sapiens didn't evolve until about 200.000 years ago, our most direct ancestor, the Homo Erectus, first appeared about 1.9 Mya, and the Homo genes separated from Panina (chimps) about 7.5 Mya
  8. Bullshit! did a full episode on organic food in the 7th series.
  9. e.g. "unchecked global warming will bankrupt the global economy by 2065" sounds a bit PIDOOMA
  10. Let me give you a little piece of dating advice here, don't be afraid of starting a conversation about a random controversial topic, for example "What do you think about abortion?", "Who did you vote for last time, and why?", "Do you believe God exists?" Don't be afraid to disagree either; a good conversation about such a topic will do far more for you than talking about your job or where you're from or some such boring bullshit.
  11. Elvis never did no drugs!

References[edit]

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lbBtUcJ1y0&feature=player_detailpage#t=68
  2. http://www.cato.org/people/penn-jillette
  3. http://www.cato.org/people/-teller
  4. episode 2.02, Safety Hysteria
  5. 5.0 5.1 https://twitter.com/pennjillette/status/667933485965799424
  6. Respiratory health effects of passive smoking: lung cancer and other disorders
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mea culpa: Secondhand smoke and the politics of science, The Skeptic's Dictionary newsletter
  8. http://archive.tobacco.org/Documents/980717osteen.html
  9. Here's the ruling
  10. Multicenter Case–Control Study of Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Lung Cancer in Europe
  11. Review of the quality of studies on the economic effects of smoke-free policies on the hospitality industry
  12. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the economic impact of smoking bans in restaurants and bars.
  13. Penn and Teller Second-Hand Smoke Correction
  14. based on one-star Amazon reviews
  15. See wikipedia: {{wpa|ExtenZe}
  16. Which can be seen on YouTube Water sommeliers are apparently a real thing though. Poe's law in action!
  17. at about 34:50.
  18. http://ncse.com/news/2002/09/creationism-not-to-appear-cobb-county-public-schools-00272
  19. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/17/dining/eating-well-anti-organic-and-flawed.html
  20. https://web.archive.org/web/20070126180507/http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jan2006/nf20060113_2851_db035.htm
  21. IPCC Third Assessment Report from 2001, "the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate"
  22. Penn Jillette discusses anthropogenic climate change
  23. "Although I used to be more skeptical it seems like the information, and by that I do not mean Hurricane Sandy, but the preponderance of information seems to be there is climate change and it is anthropogenic. Although I still don’t know that the best solution is just a stronger government." Morality, Religion and Bullsh*t: An Interview with Penn Jillette
  24. http://www.debate.org/peta/
  25. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Center_for_Consumer_Freedom
  26. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=David_Martosko
  27. http://www.consumerfreedom.com/about/
  28. http://greatideas.people.com/2015/04/08/penn-jillette-weight-loss-las-vegas-home/
  29. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1671737.stm
  30. http://ns.umich.edu/Releases/2007/Dec07/mtf/drug_tables.pdf
  31. http://www.vox.com/cards/war-on-drugs-marijuana-cocaine-heroin-meth/war-on-drugs-success-failure-working
  32. http://www.briancbennett.com/charts/nsduh/past-month-percent.htm
  33. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/03/heroin-america-s-silent-assassin.html
  34. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/04/nyregion/hoffmans-heroin-points-to-surge-in-grim-trade.html?hp&_r=1
  35. http://www.economist.com/node/13917432
  36. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/policy-and-research/bullet_5.pdf page 9
  37. http://heroin.net/about/how-much-does-heroin-cost/
  38. https://web.archive.org/web/20070120002847/http://www.perc.org/pdf/ps28.pdf
  39. Recycling paper pollutes more than making new paper, De-Fact-O
  40. Bullshit!, Waste360
  41. [4]
  42. 42.0 42.1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57r5xEsvftM&t=11m29s
  43. Mony Vital: A Breatharian Speaks Out
  44. http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.nl/2013/01/vital-signs-immortal-breatharian-dies.html
  45. https://web.archive.org/web/20050206032107/http://hush-up.com/
  46. Bullshit! Misquotes Thomas Jefferson YouTube
  47. Intro of episode 6.04, Dolphins
  48. http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html
  49. http://www.swans.com/library/art9/mparen01.html
  50. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/sep/15/news/mn-22993
  51. See the Wikipedia article on Serfdom in Tibet controversy.
  52. http://info-buddhism.com/Human-Rights-in-Tibet-before-1959_Robert_Barnett.html
  53. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-horwitz/thomas-jefferson-and-the_b_273800.html
  54. http://www.foxnews.com/archive/author/john-lott/index.html
  55. See Tim Lambert's debunking of More Guns, Less Crime.
  56. http://www.latimes.com/la-na-nn-boy-scouts-gay-leaders-20150713-story.html#page=1
  57. http://www.nomoremoney.org/index.cfm?pageid=947
  58. https://youtu.be/99_upx8URLI?t=2207, at about 36:45
  59. Journal of Forensic Sciences
  60. Forensic Science International
  61. Science & Justice
  62. Penn & Teller: My take on their bullshit
  63. https://youtu.be/99_upx8URLI?t=2207, at about 36:45