On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit

This 2015 paper ought to provoke provoke an interesting discussion:

On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit

Abstract

Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.

481 thoughts on “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit

  1. Patrick: It’s supported by the fact that the verses are objectively contradictory.

    no they are not, as witnessed by the fact that none of the millions of people who have held to inerrancy down through history have thought that they are contradictory.

    The only folks who ever though that they are contradictory are the ones who agree with you.

    Patrick: Anyone who disagrees is doing so not for rational, logically defensible reasons.

    You have just indicted the vast majority of the people in the west for the last two thousand years of being irrational simply because they disagree with your individual interpretation of a religious text.

    It’s just that sort of thing that leads to religious war and genocide.

    Your interpretation is not the default. You are not the judge of objective reality.

    You need to support your claim with actual evidence or retract it.
    you hypocrite.

    Let me know when you have refuted 2 thousand years of conservative Jewish and Christian scholarship. Then we will talk.

    peace

  2. keiths: I don’t think God exists. But even if I thought he did, I certainly wouldn’t blame the Bible on him.

    You have repeatedly argued that if evil exists then God is to blame because he could have prevented it. The same obviously goes for error.

    Which is it, Is God unwilling or unable to prevent error in his revelation to us?

    Follow up question

    If an omnipotent God can’t or won’t reveal something so that we can know it how is any knowledge whatsoever possible?

    peace

  3. Patrick: Claims like this one:

    So apparently after every thing you still don’t understand the difference between presupposition and claim.

    Communication and discussion is impossible if you are unwilling to go to the effort of understanding what words mean.

    peace

  4. fifthmonarchyman:

    It’s supported by the fact that the verses are objectively contradictory.

    no they are not, as witnessed by the fact that none of the millions of people who have held to inerrancy down through history have thought that they are contradictory.

    Your logical fallacy is argumentum ad populum. That many people believe a false thing does not make it true.

    Quote the actual words as written and show how those don’t contradict each other. You cannot.

  5. fifthmonarchyman: So apparently after every thing you still don’t understand the difference between presupposition and claim.

    Communication and discussion is impossible if you are unwilling to go to the effort of understanding what words mean.

    I know exactly what the words mean. You make a lot of claims and fail to support any of them.

    Why are you here, FFM? This is a place for skeptical discussion. The tools of skepticism include reason, logic, and objective, empirical evidence. Skepticism requires intellectual integrity and honesty, a willingness both to support one’s claims and to be proven wrong. You don’t demonstrate any of those qualities.

    You make numerous claims but refuse to support them, using transparently desperate rhetorical devices to attempt to avoid even the possibility of disconfirmation. You reject objective evidence that disproves your claims. In addition to destroying your integrity and honesty, your religion leads you to hold vile positions like trivializing slavery as “temporary and local.”

    If your goal here is to proselytize, I suggest you make a single post summarizing your beliefs and stop polluting every other thread with them. The only other goal I can derive from your behavior here is that you’re attempting to demonstrate just how much damage childhood indoctrination can do to someone. You’ve succeeded in that beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

  6. Patrick: Your logical fallacy is argumentum ad populum. That many people believe a false thing does not make it true.

    I agree it does not make it true. I never claimed it did

    On the other hand it shows that your unsupported claim that these verses are objectively contradictory should not be granted until you provide some evidence.

    Patrick: Quote the actual words as written and show how those don’t contradict each other. You cannot.

    In order to show how you rip the snippets out of context context I would need to quote the entire text. But that is simply not necessary.

    You are the one making the claim you need to support it with evidence

    The erroneous assumptions you import to the text are simply laughable.

    1) The text never says that Amalekite’s story was true
    2) there is nothing contradictory in the Philistines being responsible for Saul’s death and him also falling on his sword to avoid final humiliation at their hands.
    3) God is ultimately responsible for everyone’s death that does not rule out secondary causes.

    Even a small child could see that you have not even begun to demonstrate that the above points are invalid.

    All you did was quote a snippet of text and give it an out of context uncharitable interpretation. Then declare your view to be the objective truth.

    LOL

    If you make a claim you need to support it you hypocrite

    peace

  7. fifth,

    no they are not, as witnessed by the fact that none of the millions of people who have held to inerrancy down through history have thought that they are contradictory.

    Besides making the dumb “millions of people can’t be wrong” argument, you are overlooking something obvious. Only a small percentage of the people who believe the Bible is innerrant actually know the Bible well enough to be aware of the issues.

    Most fundagelicals have been told that the Bible is inerrant and they simply accept that instead of checking for themselves. When someone actually points out the contradictions, they are shocked. I’ve seen this again and again.

  8. Patrick: This is a place for skeptical discussion. The tools of skepticism include reason, logic, and objective, empirical evidence.

    physician heal thyself support your claim that the bible is contradictory with reason logic and evidence or retract it

    you hypocrite

    Patrick: You reject objective evidence that disproves your claims.

    You haven’t even demonstrated that objectivity is possible given your world view let alone provided objective evidence that disproves any claim you think that I made

    you hypocrite

    Patrick: your religion leads you to hold vile positions like trivializing slavery as “temporary and local.”

    You haven’t demonstrated that any position can be “vile” except in as a mater of purely subjective opinion

    Yet with out support you just claimed that a portion you think I hold is vile
    You need to support your claim or retract it

    you hypocrite

    peace

  9. fifthmonarchyman:

    Your logical fallacy is argumentum ad populum. That many people believe a false thing does not make it true.

    I agree it does not make it true. I never claimed it did

    Then there is no point to you bringing it up.

    On the other hand it shows that your unsupported claim that these verses are objectively contradictory should not be granted until you provide some evidence.

    Once again, though I know you will never get it, I provided evidence of contradictions, not a claim.

    In order to show how you rip the snippets out of context context I would need to quote the entire text. But that is simply not necessary.

    I provided full context. Saying otherwise is a lie,

    The erroneous assumptions you import to the text are simply laughable.

    1) The text never says that Amalekite’s story was true

    Pathetic. You attempt to avoid the contradiction by claiming that something in your bible isn’t true. Hardly an improvement.

    2) there is nothing contradictory in the Philistines being responsible for Saul’s death and him also falling on his sword to avoid final humiliation at their hands.

    More squirming. Suicide and being killed by someone else are completely different.

    3) God is ultimately responsible for everyone’s death that does not rule out secondary causes.

    Then why mention it at all? The answer is that the bible is a collection of stories written by men with the inconsistencies one would expect from that.

    Even a small child could see that you have not even begun to demonstrate that the above points are invalid.

    Only someone indoctrinated as a small child would be unable to see the clear contradictions in the text. I’m genuinely sorry that happened to you.

  10. keiths: Only a small percentage of the people who believe the Bible is innerrant actually know the Bible well enough to be aware of the issues.

    1) Only a small percentage of people who claim that the Bible is errant know conservative scholarship well enough to be aware of the problems with that view.

    2) Patrick did not say that the folks who held to inerrancy were unaware he said they were willfully blind and irrational.

    he needs to support that claim or retract it

    peace

  11. fifthmonarchyman:

    This is a place for skeptical discussion. The tools of skepticism include reason, logic, and objective, empirical evidence.

    physician heal thyself support your claim that the bible is contradictory with reason logic and evidence or retract it

    I provided the evidence. You refuse to see it.

    you hypocrite

    That’s it, FFM, lash out. Let the anger flow through you like a good Christian.

    You reject objective evidence that disproves your claims.

    You haven’t even demonstrated that objectivity is possible given your world view let alone provided objective evidence that disproves any claim you think that I made

    Another desperate attempt at evading responsibility for your own failings. It appears that you’re never going to man up and support your claims.

    you hypocrite

    Keep it up. You’re such a good example of Christ like compassion and humility.

    your religion leads you to hold vile positions like trivializing slavery as “temporary and local.”

    You haven’t demonstrated that any position can be “vile” except in as a mater of purely subjective opinion

    Yet with out support you just claimed that a portion you think I hold is vile
    You need to support your claim or retract it

    I’m just going to stick with “Slavery is wrong, even though it is allowed by the bible.” I’m good with that subjective moral precept. It takes religion to argue otherwise.

    you hypocrite

    There you go, finishing strong. Show everyone how badly childhood indoctrination can damage a person.

    That is, after all, why you’re here, right?

  12. Patrick: I provided full context. Saying otherwise is a lie,

    now you are claiming not only that your out of context uncharitable interpretation is objective truth but also that you are the authoritative judge as to what full context is.

    Here is some context you left out

    1) the Amalekite solder was motivated to lie to save himself from David (2Sa 1:1)
    2) Saul was terrified to fall in to the hands of the Philistines (1Sa 28:5)
    3) God was ultimately responsible for Saul’s even if others carried it out (1Sa 28:18)

    Peace

  13. keiths:

    I don’t think God exists. But even if I thought he did, I certainly wouldn’t blame the Bible on him.

    I’m not an idiot, and no God worthy of the name would be one, either.

    fifth:

    You have repeatedly argued that if evil exists then God is to blame because he could have prevented it. The same obviously goes for error.

    Which is it, Is God unwilling or unable to prevent error in his revelation to us?

    You’re getting ahead of yourself, as usual. Why assume that the Bible is God’s revelation in the first place? Do you assume that the Book of Mormon is God’s revelation? The Guru Granth Sahib?

    Just look at the Bible. It obviously isn’t the inerrant word of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God. No omniGod would fuck up that badly.

    I don’t understand why you want to blame God for the Bible. I thought you loved and worshiped him. Why piss him off?

  14. As for this:

    You have repeatedly argued that if evil exists then God is to blame because he could have prevented it. The same obviously goes for error.

    If error is anathema to God, perhaps you would like to tell us why:

    1. Catholics and Protestants can’t even agree on which books to include in the Bible.

    2. Different Bible translations conflict with each other.

    3. There are profound disagreements among sincere Christians over fundamental doctrinal issues such as a) the role of works in salvation and b) what constitutes a legitimate baptism.

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Where is your error-hating God in all of this? Nowhere to be found, as usual.

  15. walto: there are those here who insist there are no such inaccuracies or contradictions to be found in the writings.

    Not I. I take the Bible as an inspiration, not as an authority.

  16. fifthmonarchyman:
    1) the Amalekite solder was motivated to lie to save himself from David (2Sa 1:1)

    You point at verses without quoting them and dare accuse me of leaving out context? Here’s the full excerpt:

    1:1 Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag;
    1:2 It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.
    1:3 And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.
    1:4 And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.
    1:5 And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?
    1:6 And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.
    1:7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I.
    1:8 And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.
    1:9 He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me.

    The idea that it would be better to claim to have killed Saul than to say he found him dead is not sensible.

    2) Saul was terrified to fall in to the hands of the Philistines (1Sa 28:5)

    Which is why, in one version, he commits suicide.

    3) God was ultimately responsible for Saul’s even if others carried it out (1Sa 28:18)

    As is your pattern, you add in material that isn’t there and ignore the actual words:

    1 Chronicles 10:14

    And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

    Your bible contains numerous contradictions. This is one. Refusing to see them doesn’t make them go away.

  17. walto: Take it up with Charlie.He’s the one who says there are inaccuracies and contradictions that one ought to look past to get at the “deeper truths.”I take it he “knows stuff” because he’s read it in Steiner.(The latter individual was not, I understand, a Calvinist.)

    I “know stuff” because I have read from a vast number of sources and some of it sticks.

    And I would never sign up to the articles as stated in ffm’s link. IMO if Christ wanted us to take the written word as an authority then he would have written something down himself.

    Christ criticised the Pharisees for ignoring the spirit and sticking to the letter. That must tell us something. Paul showed the way when he proclaimed, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

  18. CharlieM: I “know stuff” because I have read from a vast number of sources and some of it sticks.

    And I would never sign up to the articles as stated in ffm’s link. IMO if Christ wanted us to take the written word as an authority then he would have written something down himself.

    Christ criticised the Pharisees for ignoring the spirit and sticking to the letter. That must tell us something. Paul showed the way when he proclaimed, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

    I think an OP detailing your differences with FMM would provide a refreshing change of pace here.

  19. fifthmonarchyman: My presupposition is simply that The Christian God exists.
    The Christian God is omnipotent and righteous among other things.

    I’m not grounding my belief that God is omnipotent in my presupposition that he exists.

    I’m simply presupposing that the omnipotent Christian God exists

    And that He can reveal stuff so you are not mistaken in which case that revelation should allow you to be able know He exists without presupposing it.

    If you do not know the Christian God exists ,you should be able to conclude your presupposition is incorrect.

  20. walto: I think an OP detailing your differences with FMM would provide a refreshing change of pace here.

    Christian vs Christian action

  21. walto, to CharlieM:

    I think an OP detailing your differences with FMM would provide a refreshing change of pace here.

    newton:

    Christian vs Christian action

    Winner gets to take on the lion.

  22. What happened to fifth?

    Maybe his pastor and fellow church members did find out about this thread, and they’ve locked him in the church basement so that he can’t go anywhere near a keyboard.

  23. keiths:
    What happened to fifth?

    Maybe his pastor and fellow church members did find out about this thread, and they’ve locked him in the church basement so that he can’t go anywhere near a keyboard.

    Maybe he asked himself how he knows that his particular revelations are true, and now he has no idea of how or if he knows things. Wandering the church basement, or the city streets, constantly demanding of things and any people, “how do you know things, how can I know things?”

    Nah, I don’t seriously think he’d ask himself the obvious question that destroys his baseless presuppositions and assumptions.

    Glen DAvidson

  24. KN:

    Godel’s theorem has as its conclusion that any formal language sufficiently rich to capture the Peano axioms of arithmetic will necessarily contain statements that are true and unprovable within that system.

    fifth:

    Right, The system that I’m referring to is my worldview it is sufficiently rich to capture the Peano axioms of arithmetic and it contains one axiom.

    Marvel at the depth of fifth’s confusion.

    This bears repeating:

    And anyone who makes a logic mistake that obvious and that grotesque has no business invoking Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. They’re way above your pay grade.

  25. keiths: fifth:

    Right, The system that I’m referring to is my worldview it is sufficiently rich to capture the Peano axioms of arithmetic and it contains one axiom.

    Marvel at the depth of fifth’s confusion.

    It’s of course preposterous even without the whole Gödel stuff. He says that his spectacular assumption of the christian God is “one axiom”. Rather, it is a colossal set of highly complex “axioms”, all referred to as a single package by the term “Christian God”. When we look closer, we discover it’s actually many independent presuppositions.
    There is a being.
    It’s name/title is God.
    It has all sorts of powers (each power is it’s own “axiom”).
    This being would in fact go on to do X in history.
    Where X is create the universe, and human beings and all of life and so on and so forth. All of these would be additional “axioms”.
    It is equal to “the laws of logic” (never mind that many of these are nonsensical).
    Etc. etc.

    He has hundreds of hidden assumptions that he just refers to by the name of the full package. “Christianity”, or “The Christian God”. In no way is it a single assumption. It is specacularly grandiose in it’s scope and breadth, this thing he mistakenly thinks is a simple, single assumption. His “foundation”.

  26. Rumraket: He has hundreds of hidden assumptions that he just refers to by the name of the full package. “Christianity”, or “The Christian God”. In no way is it a single assumption. It is specacularly grandiose in it’s scope and breadth, this thing he mistakenly thinks is a simple, single assumption. His “foundation”.

    It’s, you know, sufficiently rich for all of that.

    License, in other words.

    Glen Davidson

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