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A large Miocene coprolite from South Carolina
Cogito ergo sum
Logic and rhetoric
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Not to be confused with the sceptical infotainment show Penn & Teller: Bullshit!.
Bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.
—Harry Frankfurt[1]:61

Bullshit (also known as bollocks in the UK), often shortened to BS, is nonsensical claptrap, or words without any particular connection to reality. Bullshit may be used as a means of obfuscation, or it may simply be a way to pass time or fill space on a page. There's a lot of it, and it is often an indicator that someone is trying to mislead and/or they don't know what they are talking about.

According to programmer Alberto Brandolini:[2][3][note 1]

The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

Damn straight.


If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit!
—Unknown (not W.C. Fields)[8]

Bullshitting is, in a way, an artform. It's not exactly lying, as when you're bullshitting, you may in fact be telling the truth in a completely slanted or useless form, or you may simply be saying nothing at all.

Bullshitting on the Internet is becoming easier due to the prevalence of search engines such as Google, wikis such as Wikipedia, Conservapedia, and RationalWiki, video services such as YouTube, and social media. Someone posting on the internet has more than enough time between posts to type whatever they want to talk about into Google or Wikipedia and appear as an immediate genius to others reading the post. The drawback to this is that everyone can do it, so someone with a genuine knowledge of a subject can still tend to win out. ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence are bullshit generators, and have massive funding to try to win the war.[9][10]

One common way of bullshitting is writing jargon or gobbledygook to reach the word count on an essay.

Bullshit and philosophy[edit]

It's comin' 'round the bend…
Dole office clerk: "What work do you do?"

Comicus: "I'm a standup philosopher."
Clerk: "Oh. A bullshit artist."
Comicus: (grumble)
Clerk: "Did you bullshit anyone this week?"
Comicus: "No!"
Clerk: "Did you try to bullshit anyone this week?"

Comicus: "Yes!"
—Mel Brooks (comicus) and Bea Arthur (clerk), History of the World, Part I, at a Roman unemployment office[11]

Philosopher Harry Frankfurt, in his essay On Bullshit,[1] attempts a rigorous philosophical definition of bullshit. For Frankfurt, this consists of drawing a sharp distinction between a bullshitter and a liar; the difference being that a liar cares enough about the truth to state known falsehoods — or, at a minimum, respects reality enough to feel a need to evade it. A bullshitter, on the other hand, does not care about whether statements are true or false, because some other goal is paramount — and truth is a secondary consideration, if it is granted any relevance at all. "Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this," Frankfurt writes, "bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."[12][1]:61

A common claim among neo-Nazis is that the Holocaust never happened, that many millions of people purportedly killed in Europe were in fact not killed, that this massacre was a fabrication of Allied propagandists. Now this is a factual claim, of which demonstrating the truth value is quite possible. And, it being demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that these people actually were killed, neo-Nazis have become roundly recognized as liars when it comes to this topic.

The New Republic's Senior Editor, Jeet Heer, applied Frankfurt's thesis to Donald Trump to demonstrate that, contrary to common and frequent accusations, Trump is not a liar. Rather, he's a "bullshit artist." Heer writes that Trump would take us to "a post-truth world" in which "subjectivity is all, where reality is simply what he says."[13] Which, of course, would be total bullshit.


See the main article on this topic: Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is a skeptical television show on the Showtime network hosted by magicians Penn & Teller. The original series concentrated on debunking crank ideas from ESP to alternative medicine. While generally well-received by the skeptical community, it has been criticized for the presenters' tendency to let their libertarian[note 2] politics interfere with their rationalist message (for example, with the episodes "Prostitution" and "Drugs"), as well as their poor fact-checking (for example, misquoting Thomas Jefferson "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have." The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases."[14]). But this is a modern libertarian-tinged fabrication; the actual quote is "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground."[15] Penn and Teller should've stuck to making rabbits appear out of hats, instead of making Ayn Rand quotes appear on teenagers' Facebook profiles.

Later series concentrated less on actual crank practices, and more on concepts such as "family values" or "profanity", although some basic crank-refuting remained, such as episodes on cryptozoology and New Age "Medicine".


There are bullshit terms tossed around by those who don't like the way reality actually works. These are generally terms that have a real base word, but adds the suffix "-ism" to express that the idea must be a philosophical or religious notion. Such isms include "scientism", "Darwinism", "transgenderism", and "evolutionism". Such terms can on rare occasions be used legitimately within the field of study, but when someone starts using such terms to attack mainstream scholarship, they are snarl words and usually full of bullshit.

Real bullshit[edit]

Bullshit is also the solid waste material from Bos taurus (cattle) of the male gender. It is not nice to step in, but makes good fertilizer. It is often compared to money in that it can be beneficial to spread it thinly over a large area, but highly toxic (not to mention disgusting) when too much is concentrated in one place. This usage differs from the metaphorical usage discussed above in that metaphorical bullshit, while toxic in high concentrations, is toxic in low concentrations as well. Genuine bovine bullshit figures prominently as an ingredient, reagent, and fuel in Ayurvedic medicine as well.

Polite euphemisms for bullshit, in the literal or figurative sense, include "bovine feces", "bovine excrement", "bovine scat", and "bovine stool", the last two of which even preserves the initials. Another euphemism for it is "cow patties" or "cow pies" (not to be confused with moose turd pies).[16]

It is also used in Third World countries as a cheap source of fuel for fires. It's necessary that it be made extremely dry by laying it out in the Sun.

In Rwanda, dried cow dung (presumably from either gender of cattle) is used in the traditional art form of imigongo. During the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the art form was nearly lost.[17]

How to tell if you believe in bullshit[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Scientific method

Academic qualifications explained[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Alternative Medicine Education
A urolite (fossilized urine stream)
  • Scatology or coprology — in biology, the study of feces; in paleontology, the study of some really old shit: coprolites and urolites; in archaeology, the study of outhouses and ancient toilets; in literature, the study of the obscene. In paleontology and archaeology the discovery of coprolites or ancient toilets is a scientific treasure because of the relative scarcity of their preservation, and because they provide evidence of the diets of humans and other animals.

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about shit.
Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Bullshit.

Want to read this in another language?[edit]

Tontería es la versión en español de este artículo.

External links[edit]


  • Frankfurt, Harry G., On Bullshit, Princeton University Press, 2005, ISBN 0691122946. pdf
  • Law, Stephen. Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole, Prometheus, 2011, ISBN 1616144114.
  • Penny, Laura.Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit, Crown, 2005, ISBN 1400081033.


  1. The origin of the concept is unknown, but it alludes to Jonathan Swift ("Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.") and falsely to Mark Twain ("A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.") Twain's falsely attributed quote was likely a popular revision of C. H. Spurgeon's "Falsehood will fly from Maine to Georgia, while truth is pulling her boots on."[4][5]:615 Mike the Mad Biologist made note of an "asymmetric advantage of bullshit" in 2009,[6] While Italian blogger Uriel Fanelli also postulated the so-called montagna di merda (mountain of shit)[7] — which in turn sounds very similar to Bullshit Mountain. Brandolini considers it a corollary of the contributions of Daniel Kahneman.)
  2. Penn subsequently disavowed libertarianism.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (2005) Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691122946.
  2. I love @ziobrando's "Bullshit asymmetry principle" - this is the reason the skeptic movement exists. by Tim Farley (9:05 AM - 29 May 2014) Twitter (archived from July 29, 2014).
  3. @ordrespontane Yep! That's the original tweet. Then @theagilepirate took a picture of me at #XP2014 and the roller-coaster begun! :-) by Alberto Brandolini (@ziobrando) (July 8, 2014) Twitter (archived from July 14, 2014).
  4. Quotes Uncovered: How Lies Travel by Fred Shapiro (April 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm) Freakonomics (archived from April 10, 2011).
  5. The Yale Book of Quotations (2006) Yale University Press. ISBN
  6. The Asymmetric Advantage of Bullsh-t by mikethemadbiologist (April 20, 2009) ScienceBlogs.
  7. La teoria della montagna di merda® by Uriel Fanelli (March 26, 2010).
  8. W. C. Fields Wikiquote.
  9. ChatGPT Is a Bullshit Generator Waging Class War: ChatGPT isn't really new but simply an iteration of the class war that's been waged since the start of the industrial revolution. by Dan McQuillan (February 9, 2023, 6:28am) Vice.
  10. Just weeks after its dramatic leadership crisis, ChatGPT owner OpenAI is in the market for fresh funding that may value it at over $100 billion, report says by Anil Varma (December 25, 2023, 4:30 AM PST) Business Insider.
  11. Unemployment Insurance History Of The World by cujofriend (Jun 24, 2008) YouTube.
  12. On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt, book summary at Princeton University Press.
  13. Donald Trump Is Not a Liar: He's something worse: a bullshit artist. by Jeet Heer (December 1, 2015) The New Republic.
  14. Penn and Teller - The FCC (Sep 26, 2007) YouTube.
  15. [Government big enough to give you everything you want… (Spurious Quotation)] The Jefferson Monticello.
  16. Utah Phillips - Moose Turd Pie (Feb 18, 2011) YouTube.
  17. From the Ashes: Rwanda’s Traditional Imigongo Art Is on the Rise AFAR.