How to Stop Being Stupid – Part 2 (The Control and Eradication of Common Thought Pests)



Each of the following thought pests (cognitiva ignorantia pestes) occupies the moist, fertile habitat between your ears. Purging them is critical for a healthy thinking ecosystem. Failure to decontaminate infestations may result in a severe plague, culminating in a total the collapse of cognitive ability. Left untreated, a severe infestation will begin to spread to friends and family.

As with all common pests, proper identification is the key to effective eradication. Many of these species may appear harmless at first, but DO NOT BE FOOLED – once these critters get a foothold, they become excessively difficult to get rid of. In some cases, identification can cause severe trauma owing to the fact those infected may assume that the symptoms caused by their particular affliction are a natural part of their own thinking environment. Nonetheless, they must be excised and their symptoms purged… however painful this may be.

Examine your own head for signs of the following, and take note of the advice specific to each nuisance. Remember: Almost no person on the planet is completely free of these neuroactive nasties.

(Note: In many cases, repeated treatments may be necessary to ensure full elimination.)

(Source for images:


1) THE CREEPY-CAUSY WORM (Ergo Propterhoc)


An ‘alternative medicine’ creepy-causy. (A sub-species that fools victims into believing ‘miracle cures’ are truly miraculous.)


This evil little maggot burrows its way into a seemingly innocent relationship between two things, insisting that one of them must cause the other. Even though they may have been perfectly happy correlating, the creepy-causy worm disrupts this innocent relationship by suggesting that because they are such a great match, there must be something more to the connection. The creepy-causal can infect a simple coincidental relationship at any time, without warning.

(Note: The creepy-causy worm can even infect many of the other critters on this list. In these instances, a blend of control measures is suggested.)

Control and Eradication:

The creepy-causy is best controlled by daily inoculating doses of Scepticism and depriving it of its favourite meal: phony experts. Anytime you are told that one thing must cause another, chances are good that there is a creepy-causy worm at work. This is true especially in the more ‘esoteric’ and ‘metaphysical’ fields. Ask for proof which goes beyond ‘because it fits so well’. And don’t forget your daily regimen of sceptic pills.

The Straight Dope:

Correlation does not imply causation. Just because two things follow a similar trend, does not mean that one causes the other. There are statistical and experimental rules which need to be satisfied in order for a causal relationship to be established. You could summarise the entire history of science as the ongoing attempt to prove causality in various fields. Hypotheses are the easy part, proving causality is another thing altogether. Most often coincidence is merely a meaningless concurrence – don’t say otherwise unless you are prepared to prove it meticulously and scientifically.



2) THE CONFIRM ANT (Confirmationem Praeiudicia)


The confirm ant confirming… Look away!


These nasty critters only appear when you are looking for them. And as soon as you see them, they are all you see. An ugly condition known as confirmation-biasitosis rapidly sets in, which ultimately results in you seemingly being able to prove anything, because when you look for evidence to prove your idea, all you see is corroborating evidence. The situation is compounded in groups of people similarly afflicted.

Control and Eradication:

If everything fits together too well, and all of your friends agree with you, you are very likely to have a swarm on your hands. The only cure is to fumigate your mind thoroughly. The best brand to use is one called Perspective. CogitiveDissonance is also strongly recommended for group plagues. After topical treatment, confirmation-biasitosis will slowly weaken, and you will begin to see other non-substantiating evidence. Failure to do so results in extreme onesidedosis and even conspiracytheoryitis.

The Straight Dope:

Confirmation bias is best seen in the modus operandi of mind-readers, fortune tellers and those who communicate with the ‘spirits of the departed’. Typically, they will give you a range of broad or jumbled statements, or spew out a series of contradictions. Our minds filter out the things that do not apply, leaving us with only the things that are uncannily accurate. We tend to preference those things which agree with our way of thinking and ignore those things that don’t. ‘In-group’ bias happens in the same way. ‘Group think’ can be very hard to break away from unless you are prepared to probe and ponder the ‘cognitive dissonance’ brought about by foreign ideas.

NOTE 1: Believing something is true just ‘because most people believe it’ is a related and equally erroneous manner of thinking. It may be difficult to do, but try to reason things out for yourself before following the crowd. ‘Common sense’ is often just common nonsense, and can be used to manipulate your thinking.

NOTE 2: Consciously and deliberately hand-picking evidence is even more dishonest than having confirmation bias and is known as ‘cherry picking’.



3) THE KARMA CHAMELEON (Fatum Chamaeleontis)


The karma chameleon: Does not deserve.


The karma chameleon is easily the most devious of the thinking pests. A bite from this slithery reptile causes you to believe that all the good things that come your way are a direct result of the good things you have done, and all the bad things that happen to others is somehow their own fault. If you already believe this, your mind is verminous with karma chameleon poison… you should heed the following treatment measures urgently…

Control and Eradication:

Fortunately, the human body is able to attack and eradicate the venom of the karma chameleon. We produce antibodies which are stimulated into action by careful and deliberate thinking. Start with this thought: If it is true that the bad guys lose and the good guys win, then why do so many bad people get away with so much? More importantly: Why do so many good people suffer? At this stage, you will be producing a good quantity of antibodies, but it is still not enough. Try thinking about a few actual examples in order to reach a critical mass of antibodies – for example:

  • Are children who are hurt and victimized by adults somehow to blame?
  • Are abusive relationships the fault of the victim?
  • Are corrupt politicians and businessmen really good people?
  • Are victims of violent crimes as culpable as those who hurt them?
  • Are poor people just lazy and stupid?
  • Should the hungry people in the world just get up and do something about it?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you should consider placing yourself in quarantine so that the rest of us can be kept safe from your rampant stupidity. You should also consider getting expert help. An overnight stay in the real world is also advised.

The Straight Dope:

The ‘just world’ fallacy is the way many people reassure themselves about the bad things that happen to good people (and vice-versa). The truth is that people don’t get what they deserve – not just sometimes, but most of the time. Our attempts to assign agency to victims is a nasty fallacy. It is a way to dismiss unpleasant thoughts from our consciences and a way to stop being bothered by them.

On the flip side, when good things happen to us (or others), we will claim that this is somehow a reward – where it is usually blind luck. A child may get a present for being good, but you don’t get good things because you are a good person. You may think that your comfortable lifestyle is as a result of working hard, but isn’t it mostly as a result of being lucky enough to be born into relatively comfortable circumstances? Really? Would you still be where you are if you were born into a family in rural Tanzania? There is no such thing as karma, and most people do not deserve what they get. If you think they do, you really should watch the news.

NOTE: CNN is not the news.


4) THE AUTHORI FLEE (Auctoritatem Fugite) & STRAWMAN’S RAT (Rattus Terriculamentum)



Strawman’s rat and the authori flee: in cahoots


The authori flee and Strawman’s rat have a symbiotic relationship, and work in cahoots to spread the whosaiditosis plague to human hosts. A highly contagious disease, whosaiditosis is very difficult to eradicate since it gives sufferers the feeling of having a special superpower: being able to judge what someone is saying based on who or what they are. This x-ray vision gives sufferers the illusion of having the ability to look through an argument to the very core of the person making it, and to make a judgement on the validity of that person’s thinking based on this judgment. Whosaiditosis has two slightly different sub-strains depending on whether it was the rat or the flea that bit, but essentially the symptoms are the same as outlined above.

(NOTE: There is a digital virus called Godwin’s Law which mimics whosaiditis very closely. Programmed to download itself into an on-line argument, it replicates and makes sure one party is more and more likely to compare the other to a Nazi, thus implying that their argument is invalid.)

Control and Eradication:

A foul-smelling concoction known as D-PersonX is available for deterring bites and infestations. (Simultaneously, D-PersonX acts to clear the head of any imagined x-ray vision.)

The Straight Dope:

The strawman fallacy is committed when a person’s argument is unfairly dismissed by attacking a person’s character or actions. My favourite example is where a smoker who says that smoking is bad is criticised. What this smoker does; does not make his argument untrue – just ironic. Appeals to authority are the flip side of the strawman fallacy: they give undue importance to pronouncements of authority figures whose fields of expertise have nothing to do with the issue in question. Give a man a title, a lab coat or a professorship, and it is amazing how much more their opinions are given credence… even if what they are saying has nothing to do with their particular area of expertise. Who a person is, and what they do, very often has nothing to do with what they are saying. There are times when the character or qualifications of a person does matter – like in a court of law – but be careful to keep a clear distinction in your mind between the person talking and what he is actually saying.

5) THE IGNORAMOUSE (Mus Ignoratiam)


The ignoramouse doesn’t know, therefore it knows.


The sneaky ignoramouse has a wide variety of habitats and can occupy any unwatched silent space. They carry an airborne virus known as fillinthegap. Detecting a verminous infestation can be tricky, since the chief symptom of fillinthegap is inventing something to fill in empty spaces. The mental confusion which results allows mus ignoratiam to breed prodigiously. There are several sub-species: The concealed-caveat mouse, the half-truth mouse, the pseudo-wisdom mouse and the misused-statistics mouse. What unites these species is the shared ability to read meaning into gaps.


The concealed-caveat mouse. Mostly. Usually.

Control and Eradication:

The best method of control is to break up their habitat. Look at any empty space and pull it apart so that they may no longer be taken advantage of by these cheeky little rodents. Antibiotic treatments also reverse septicity and allow one to go back to seeing empty spaces as exactly that. Also, know that just because they are not in one area, doesn’t automatically make them present in another.

The Straight Dope:

We are talking here about what is often hidden or absent from arguments and how these are misused or exploited.

1) Just because there is little evidence for something to be considered true, or because there is a level of uncertainty, doesn’t make its opposite true – and vice versa. Put a different way: if it happens that I cannot remember enough of the evidence for evolution, you cannot therefore conclude that intelligent design must be true. Or, if I cannot prove where I was before coming home this morning, you cannot presume that I spent the night in jail. Whenever there is an empty space in a rational argument, don’t be overly hasty to fill it with something else.

2) People often leave things out of arguments intentionally in order to manipulate your thinking. Here are a few instances:

  • The ‘sound bites’ emanating from those who put themselves forward as being wise often disguise a range of thinking errors and untruths. The ‘self-help’ industry is a criminal offender here. As are politicians. Break apart what these sophists have to say and you will find a mass of concealed agendas and malformed thoughts.
  • Statistics quoted in evidence can often hide serious flaws. These include: compromised samples, loaded questions and unsound interpretation (to name but a few).


  • People who use a lot of guarding words such as ‘often’, ‘usually’ and ‘many’ may often be concealing something. For many of them it is usually an instance of hiding something which can undermine their argument. (Did you see what I did there? 2 bonus marks for you!)
  • Finally, people often lie by telling half-truths: what they say is true, but what is left ‘unsaid’ would tell a very different story. A lie is still a lie, even if it is only by omission.

Don’t be fooled by what’s missing!



Each of the following thought pests causes a wide range of cognitive ailments. Please be on the lookout for them. Most of them can be treated with the highly recommended CriticalThinkTM brand of fallacides.



The venom of this ubiquitous serpent causes sufferers to take a simple incident and to imagine a whole string of consequences-of-consequences, leading to a bizarre conclusion. This snake prefers parents and teachers. An excerpt from a case study from the file of a Mrs Dogood of Smallmind, Texas provides a valuable example:

“No, Susan, you cannot use your cellular phone in my class to Google your question. If you do, then everyone in the class will want to, and pretty soon I will have to devote more time to allowing you to find things out on your own than I will to actually teaching you. Soon I will be out of a job, and so will teachers around the world, causing rampant unemployment, the collapse of the global economy, and the end of civilization.”

  • THE CIRCULAR SHIRK (Circularis Argumentum)


The circular shirk secretes a hormone which stimulates a chemical reaction in the brains of those inhaling it, convincing them that any conclusion can be improved if it is rephrased and used as supporting evidence for that same conclusion.

  • GAMBLER’S FALLACI-PEEDE (Aleo Scriptor Fallacia)


Looking at this strange creature causes one to count its legs one at a time, leading to the rising expectation that very soon one of its appendages will come up arms.

  • THE FALSE DICHOTESLOTH (Falsum Dichotomia)


A toxic spit-ball sent your way from this oddity causes infected victims to go about reducing everything to a choice between just two things (Forgetting that there may be a range of other options). Politicians, advertisers, parents and teachers are all particularly susceptible, as in the following cases:

  • “Do you want to mow the lawn or clean your room?”
  • “Do you want to do well in this examination or fail in life?”
  • “You either go to heaven or hell.”
  • “Vote Republican or Democrat.”
  • “Why pay more?”
  • THE RED HERRING (Ruber Allecis)


(NOTE: This is not a red herring.)

Poor red herrings. They are thrown in everywhere, just to muddy the waters. Help them by fishing them out of where they don’t belong and returning them where they do. Red herrings are not pests, but are used by charlatans to create confusion.

NOTE: There is a move to create protected areas for these poor creatures to prevent rampant overfishing and abuse.

These are just ten of the most common and pervasive pests. Of course, there are many more – but the eradication of these will lower your BS tolerance levels, make your critical thinking system stronger – and thus empower you to identify and eradicate other potential cognitive creepy-crawlies more easily.

Please consult these sources should you require further information and assistance.

* Wikipedia

* Skepdic

* The Fallacy Files



The Tritical Chinker: Eats all known thought pests. Get one for your home!

(This is mine. Her name is Audrey.)


Also don’t forget to look me up on Twitter:


About Sean Hampton-Cole

Fascinated by thinking & why it goes wrong➫ (Un)teacher ➫iPadologist ➫Humanist ➫Stirrer ➫Edupunk ➫Synthesist ➫Introvert ➫Blogger ➫Null Hypothesist.
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