All Episodes

September 16, 2020 58 min

Now, maybe more than ever before, it is time to learn the art of skepticism.  Amidst compounded complex crises, humankind must also navigate a swelling tidal wave of outright lies, clever misdirections, and well-meant but dangerous mistaken claims….in other words, bullshit. Why is the 21st Century such a hotbed of fake news? How can we structure our networks and their incentives to mitigate disinformation and encourage speaking truth to power? And whose responsibility is it to inform the public and other experts about scientific research, when those insights require training to understand?

Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and in each episode we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe.

This week, we talk to Former SFI External Professor Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West, both at the University of Washington, who recently translated their landmark undergraduate course on Calling Bullshit into an eminently readable and illuminating book from Penguin Random House. In this episode, we discuss their backgrounds and ongoing work in the evolutionary dynamics and information theory of communication, how to stage a strong defense against disinformation, and the role of scientists and laypeople alike to help restore the reasoned discourse we all so desperately need.

If you value our research and communication efforts, please consider making a recurring monthly donation at, or joining our Applied Complexity Network at Also, please consider rating and reviewing us at Apple Podcasts. Thank you for listening!


Related Links & Resources:

Carl Bergstrom’s Website & Twitter.

Jevin West’s Website & Twitter.

Cost and conflict in animal signals and human language
by Michael Lachmann, Szabolcs Számadó, and Carl T. Bergstrom at PNAS

The physical limits of communication or Why any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from noise
by Michael Lachmann, M.E.J. Newman, Cris Moore in The American Journal of Physics

Deepfakes and the Epistemic Backstop
by Regina Rini at Philosopher’s Imprint

Hunger Game: Is Honesty Between Animals Always the Best Policy?
by Natalie Wolchover at Scientific American

Public Editor by Goodly Labs

Visit our website for more information or to support our science and communication efforts.

Join our Facebook discussion group to meet like minds and talk about each episode.

Podcast Theme Music by Mitch Mignano.

Follow us on social media:

Mark as Played


Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

Crime Junkie
The Daily

The Daily

This is what the news should sound like. The biggest stories of our time, told by the best journalists in the world. Hosted by Michael Barbaro. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, ready by 6 a.m.

Dateline NBC

Dateline NBC

Current and classic episodes, featuring compelling true-crime mysteries, powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations.

For You

    Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeartRadio App.


    © 2021 iHeartMedia, Inc.