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.

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

  1. Alan FoxAlan Fox

    walto: As I said, he’s a corker.He seems to take the view that he’s got the last word on all this stuff that has stymied geniuses forever, like what constitutes morality, objectivity, truth.OTOH, he has freely admitted that he doesn’t even know his own name.Gotta love that in a person.

    Plus he won’t participate in any thread without ridiculing somebody (maybe everybody!).And he’d like the rules to be changed so that the few constraints there are here on obnoxiousness are completely eliminated.Insulting others and quoting himself seem to be the main pleasures he takes from the place.Well, as they say…different strokes.After all, this IS The Shit-throwing Zone!

    🙂

  2. newton

    fifthmonarchyman: All that it would take to falsify it is for you to offer a solid grounding for knowledge in your worldview. Since you are unable or unwilling to do that my hypothesis remains unfalsified.

    Who exactly will judge what is a solid grounding?

  3. fifthmonarchyman

    newton: Who exactly will judge what is a solid grounding?

    In my hypothesis solid grounding is any grounding that is not subject to further regress.

    “Solid” in this context simply means that you can’t get past it.

    peace

  4. J-Mac

    Keiths,

    Have you ever calculated how much time you spend every day trying to prove your point? Even if you are right, is it worth it? What are you trying to accomplish?

  5. keithskeiths Post author

    J-Mac,

    I am spending most of my time at home these days so that I can care for my beloved and infirm 22-year-old cat. Having retired recently, I am able to do this, for which I am grateful.

    One of Frida’s favorite comforts is to sleep cradled in my arm. While she does that, I entertain myself by reading, surfing the Web, and commenting at TSZ. I also have other reasons for commenting here, which I’ve described elsewhere.

    If you’d like, I can track down one of the comments in which I explain.

    But I sense that your question isn’t really a question, but rather a complaint.

  6. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    In my hypothesis solid grounding is any grounding that is not subject to further regress.

    Unlike your “revelation…revelation…revelation…” regress.

  7. waltowalto

    keiths:
    J-Mac,

    I am spending most of my time at home these days so that I can care for my beloved and infirm 22-year-old cat.Having retired recently, I am able to do this, for which I am grateful.

    One of Frida’s favorite comforts is to sleep cradled in my arm. While she does that, I entertain myself by reading, surfing the Web, and commenting at TSZ.I also have other reasons for commenting here, which I’ve described elsewhere.

    If you’d like, I can track down one of the comments in which I explain.

    But I sense that your question isn’t really a question, but rather a complaint.

    Sorry about Frida. It’s nice you can spend this time with her.

  8. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: Unlike your “revelation…revelation…revelation…” regress.

    1) There is no regress It’s the exact same grounding. Not plural revelations but singular revelation.

    2) Everyone grants that if knowledge is possible at all then God can reveal stuff so that I can know it. (that’s what omnipotent means)

    come on keiths think.

    peace

  9. keithskeiths Post author

    walto,

    Sorry about Frida.

    Thank you.

    It’s nice you can spend this time with her.

    It really is. It’s stressful to be working when you’d rather be home caring for a beloved child, parent, or pet. My retirement allows me to do that without feeling that I’m letting anyone down at work.

    When I’m holding her, Frida sleeps on her back like a baby, with her paws in the air. I should post a photo. It’s really cute.

    She wakes up from time to time and stretches. I’ve seen a lot of cats stretch, but before Frida, no cat had ever stretched while in my arms. I can feel the vibrations throughout my whole torso.

    Nobody relishes a good stretch like a cat. Even their ears vibrate.

  10. fifthmonarchyman

    an Epistemological regress looks like this

    1) Suppose that P is some piece of knowledge. Then P is a justified true belief.
    2) The only thing that can justify P is another statement – let’s call it P1; so P1 justifies P.
    3) But if P1 is to be a satisfactory justification for P, then we must know that P1.
    4) But for P1 to be known, it must also be a justified true belief.
    5) That justification will be another statement – let’s call it P2; so P2 justifies P1.
    6) But if P2 is to be a satisfactory justification for P1, then we must know that P2 is true
    7) But for P2 to count as knowledge, it must itself be a justified true belief.
    8) That justification will in turn be another statement – let’s call it P3; so P3 justifies P2.

    and so on, ad infinitum.

    From here

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regress_argument

    Revelation is not like that at all. It’s an appeal to the exact same grounding (P) again. It’s solid

    How do you know revelation is indeed revelation?—–
    revelation.

    world with out end amen

    peace

  11. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    We’ve been over this a million times. You’re never gonna get it — you’re too drunk on religion.

  12. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: We’ve been over this a million times. You’re never gonna get it — you’re too drunk on religion.

    You think I’m drunk on religion I think you are drunk on rebellion.

    That what it means to have different worldviews, Things look different depending on your perspective

    The only difference is that you don’t have justification for what you think you know and I do.

    peace

  13. keithskeiths Post author

    It isn’t a matter of worldviews, but of your Jesus-induced inability to see a regress as a regress.

    A simple failure of reasoning due to religious intoxication.

  14. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: We’ve been over this a million times.

    perhaps, but for the first 999,999 times you thought I was a fideist

    LOL

    peace

  15. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: It isn’t a matter of worldviews, but of your Jesus-induced inability to see a regress as a regress.

    I provided an step by step structure and a link to a discussion of what an epistemological regress looks like. You haven’t even attempted to demonstrate how my grounding is subject to a regress.

    Perhaps you should provide an example of what it looks like not to regress when it comes to epistemology so we could compare my position with that one.

    I won’t hold my breath

    peace

  16. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth:

    You haven’t even attempted to demonstrate how my grounding is subject to a regress.

    I’ve explained it to you again and again.

    fifth: God revealed X to me.

    critic: How do you know it was a genuine revelation?

    fifth: God revealed that the revelation was genuine.

    critic: How do you know that that was a genuine revelation?

    fifth: God revealed that the revelation that the revelation was genuine was genuine.

    critic: How do you know that that was a genuine revelation?

    fifth: God revealed that the revelation that the revelation that the revelation was genuine was genuine was genuine.

    …and so on, idiotically.

    It’s obviously a regress, yet you deny that. You’re an embarrassment to Christianity, fifth.

  17. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths,

    We have been over this a million times and you apparently still don’t understand the basic point.

    I don’t know X because God has given me a specific revelation.
    I “know” in general because God reveals.

    My grounds for knowledge is not a particular statement given from God it’s a process by which knowledge is imparted from it’s source to it’s recipient.

    keiths: critic: How do you know that that was a genuine revelation?

    Again we are not looking for justification for a single discrete proposition “X” we are looking for justification for knowledge in general.

    Just as with the “truth” statement that caused you to start this thread in the first place the one and the many has tripped you up again.

    peace

  18. fifthmonarchyman

    This is how keith’s thinks it works ————

    Keith’s straw man : God revealed X to me.

    critic: How do you know it was a genuine revelation?

    Keith’s straw man : God revealed X1 to me .

    critic: How do you know that X1 was a genuine revelation?

    Keith’s straw man : God revealed X2 to me.

    critic: How do you know that X2 was a genuine revelation?

    Keith’s straw man : God revealed X3 to me.

    This is how it actually works———–

    Critic: How do you know revelation is indeed revelation?—–
    FMM: revelation.

    world with out end amen

    Do you see the difference???

    peace

  19. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    Repeating a bad argument a zillion times will not somehow make it sound. Not even Jesus can help you with that.

    This is how it actually works———–

    Critic: How do you know revelation is indeed revelation?—–
    FMM: revelation.

    world with out end amen

    Do you see the difference???

    You’ve already told us that you can be wrong about revelation — that you can mistake a brain fart for a genuine revelation.

    That includes your ‘blanket’ revelation above.

    Your faith rests on a freshman logic error.

  20. Gregory

    Talk of revelation in the midst of such inhuman and indeed dehumanising anti-religiosity is like casting pearls to swine

  21. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: You’ve already told us that you can be wrong about revelation — that you can mistake a brain fart for a genuine revelation.

    That includes your ‘blanket’ revelation above.

    1) I can be wrong about any particular thing that I think is revelation.
    2) I can’t be wrong when I say that God can reveal so that I can know.

    If I don’t know 2 then it’s impossible to know anything at all.

    Therefore it’s Christianity or absurdity.

    keiths: Your faith rests on a freshman logic error.

    No it rests on a God who can reveal.
    Your rebellion apparently rests on your willful inability to grasp the one and the many

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/problem-of-many/

    peace

  22. fifthmonarchyman

    Gregory: Talk of revelation in the midst of such inhuman and indeed dehumanising anti-religiosity is like casting pearls to swine

    I don’t do it for the swine I do it for the saints that might be lurking quietly amongst them

    peace

  23. keithskeiths Post author

    Believing that something is revelation does not make it so.
    Not even remotely.

    -fifthmonarchyman

  24. waltowalto

    fifthmonarchyman: 1) I can be wrong about any particular thing that I think is revelation.
    2) I can’t be wrong when I say that God can reveal so that I can know.

    Therefore it’s Christianity or absurdity.

    If I don’t know 2 then it’s impossible to know anything at all.

    This is kind of a mess, Fifth.

    First of all, the form is nonsensical. I take it that (1) is supposed to be a reply to a (sensible, IMO) criticism. Whether it is a successful response or not, it has nothing to do with what’s said to follow from (2) and the statement following your “therefore” sentence. That is, presumably, the conclusion follows from those only; (1) is not used.

    So now we have:

    :
    (1) can’t be wrong when I say that God can reveal so that I can know.

    (2) If I don’t know (1) then it’s impossible to know anything at all.
    Therefore it’s Christianity or absurdity.

    (1) might be OK, but I don’t think it’s as obvious as you think–and, more importantly, it’s ambiguous. Take the first consideration: that God can be defined as something which is such that it is possible for it reveal things in a way that others can know, I grant. But that you “can’t be wrong” when you say this goes a bit farther. Maybe one CAN be wrong when one makes a definitional claim–even if the claim is correct. It’s confusing, because epistemology is confusing. But anyhow, I don’t want to quibble about this aspect. So let’s say (1) is OK. The important thing is to figure out what it means. Fleshed out, it says something like

    If there is a God, it is such that it can reveal propositions to me in a manner that allows me to know them, and this is something I can’t be wrong about (because it’s simply a matter of how I’m using the term “God”).

    So now, because you choose to use “God” in the way you do, you think you can infer

    (2) If I don’t know (1) then it’s impossible to know anything at all.

    I note first that (2) doesn’t follow from (1)–and, to its credit, the syllogism doesn’t require it to: it’s just a premise. But it’s important to SEE that it doesn’t follow from (1), I think.

    If you can know things because you define terms in certain ways, then there are an infinite number of propositions you can know in the same manner. God doesn’t have to exist for that to be the case. All that must be the case is that our ability to define terms in certain ways allows us to know analytic propositions.

    But as I’ve said, there’s no claim that (2) follows from (1) here. And I suppose it’s possible that someone could make a decent argument for something like (2) based on the idea that we need to know analytic truths in order to know anything else. (I.e., terms have to “keep their meanings” etc.) That doesn’t strike me as obviously false. But it’s extremely important to see here that it’s not the God biz in (1) that has to be true. This makes that clear:

    (1*) I can’t be wrong when I say that circles must be round.
    (2*) If I don’t know (stuff like) (1), then I don’t know anything at all.

    Now, you will say that we need the revelation material in (1), that that’s actually the main point of (1). Believe me, I know you want that in there, but what I think you’re missing is that to the extent that you make knowledge dependent on divine revelations in (1), (1) will not not be anything that works as a plausible first premise anymore. You don’t want to assume the existence of God in an argument for the existence of God. Many–perhaps MOST–people are going to deny that knowledge of things depends on there being a GOD arranging this possibility. The syllogism is supposed to show that denial of such “revelations” leads to a contradiction. But (1) is compelling ONLY TO THE EXTENT that it does not beg this question. It is a plausible premise only if one can argue for its truth based upon our need to be able to know analytic truths in order to know anything. The argument turns to bullshit if it conflates all these matters for the purpose (perhaps unintentional) of confusion. And, of course, if we construe (1) clearly, in a manner in which anybody but a theist is likely to believe it, it provides no help in getting to the conclusion:

    Therefore, it’s Christianity or absurdity.

    (I leave aside here the “Christianity” baloney. I take it that to most people in the world “God” doesn’t imply Jesus.)

    So we don’t have to discuss these side matters, let’s put the conclusion in this less silly way:

    Therefore, God reveals things to us.

    Clearly, that doesn’t follow from the clear (and arguably somewhat plausible) (1*) as I’ve put it above. You’ll need to beg the question of God’s existence in your (1) to get it. And that’s just what you’ve done–although in a murky manner. Taken down to its essence, to get the conclusion you want, your argument ends up being this:

    (1**)There can’t be any knowledge unless God exists
    (2**) We know stuff.
    Therefore, God exists.

    You can take that one to the bank! It’s as valid as valid can be. The problem is that only theists will believe (1).

    You can only make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with legerdemain and confusion. Making your argument more and more obscure cannot make it better.

    In sum, to the extent that its premises are compelling, nothing follows from your little syllogism about God’s existence, and to the extent that it DOES suggest to anybody that God exists, it’s entirely implausible without begging the question.

    Throwing around the words “reveal” and “revelation” over and over does nothing to make this approach more respectable.

    I hope (though very much doubt) that this will be helpful.

  25. RumraketRumraket

    fifthmonarchyman: If I don’t know 2 then it’s impossible to know anything at all.

    Depends on how you define knowledge.

    So no, it’s not Christian Presuppositionalism vs Absurdity.

  26. RumraketRumraket

    Gregory: Talk of revelation in the midst of such inhuman and indeed dehumanising anti-religiosity is like casting pearls to swine

  27. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:

    You’ve made this and similar claims repeatedly. You have never supported any of them with a rational argument or evidence.

    once again

    That implies you’ve said it before. Cite?

    My hypothesis that the only two alternatives are Christianity and absurdity is tentative.

    Then you should stop stating it as a positive claim. Preface it with “I think but I cannot demonstrate” to make it honest.

    All that it would take to falsify it is for you to offer a solid grounding for knowledge in your worldview.

    This is yet another transparent attempt to shift the burden of proof. If you can’t support your claim, stop making it.

  28. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:

    That what it means to have different worldviews, Things look different depending on your perspective

    Calling your childhood indoctrination a “worldview” is like calling claims “presuppositions”. I’m sure you believe it’s true, but it’s just intellectual dishonesty wrapped in a desperate attempt to avoid even the possibility of disconfirming your religious beliefs.

  29. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:
    1) I can be wrong about any particular thing that I think is revelation.
    2) I can’t be wrong when I say that God can reveal so that I can know.

    2 contradicts 1, unless you have a source other than revelation for knowledge.

    If I don’t know 2 then it’s impossible to know anything at all.

    An honest person would either support that claim or retract it.

  30. newton

    walto: If you can know things because you define terms in certain ways, then there are an infinite number of propositions you can know in the same manner. God doesn’t have to exist for that to be the case. All that must be the case is that our ability to define terms in certain ways allows us to know analytic propositions.

    Exactly

  31. Neil Rickert

    walto: This is kind of a mess, Fifth.

    I hope (though very much doubt) that this will be helpful.

    Thanks, walto. That was a good analysis.

    When I saw fifth’s post, I immediately reached the same conclusion as your first sentence (i.e. that it was a mess). I decided not to pursue it further.

    As for your last sentence — even if fifth does not appreciate, I found your post worth reading.

  32. newton

    walto: Clearly, that doesn’t follow from the clear (and arguably somewhat plausible) (1*) as I’ve put it above. You’ll need to beg the question of God’s existence in your (1) to get it. And that’s just what you’ve done–although in a murky manner. Taken down to its essence, to get the conclusion you want, your argument ends up being this:

    (1**)There can’t be any knowledge unless God exists
    (2**) We know stuff.
    Therefore, God exists.

    Another vote for ” how do you know?”

  33. waltowalto

    GlenDavidson: How do you know things, Walto?

    newton: Usually fifth will respond with, ” how do you know?”

    I’ve answered that question for him countless times. He can go back and look.

  34. Gregory

    fifthmonarchyman,

    Please count all of the time you’ve spent composing messages here and weigh that over on one side. On the other, can you give just 3 things that makes you think a ‘saint’ (assuming you’re Protestant, so that could just mean ‘a Christian’) is lurking *ANYWHERE* on TSZ?

    No speculation about ‘might be’ is necessary; that is already understood.

    Otherwise, another site is probably better worth your time, if it weighs that imbalanced. Don’t forget that you also lose any pearls that could be shared with others in that time. Ministry to the angry & spiritually dispossessed science vs. religion warriors can be costly in many ways beyond the insults that soul-emptied ‘skeptics’ throw at ‘normal’ people that are religious theists who experience both faith & reason.

    For me this place is not worth that cost. IDism is declining or dead; ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ people (right at the centre of it) haven’t yet confronted what ‘over-extended’ means. And nobody seems ready for the ‘trans-ition’ that is to come next. = )

  35. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth:

    1) I can be wrong about any particular thing that I think is revelation.
    2) I can’t be wrong when I say that God can reveal so that I can know.

    Patrick:

    2 contradicts 1, unless you have a source other than revelation for knowledge.

    Right, and as walto notes:

    If you can know things because you define terms in certain ways, then there are an infinite number of propositions you can know in the same manner. God doesn’t have to exist for that to be the case.

    But if fifth were to admit that, he’d be contradicting his claim that everything he knows comes via revelation. So his argument is screwed either way.

    By their fruits ye shall know them.

  36. newton

    Gregory: . Don’t forget that you also lose any pearls that could be shared with others in that time.

    Some might say fifth lost his pearls long ago

    Ministry to the angry & spiritually dispossessed science vs. religion warriors can be costly in many ways beyond the insults that soul-emptied ‘skeptics’ throw at ‘normal’ people that are religious theists who experience both faith & reason.

    Sounds like someone needs a hug.

  37. keithskeiths Post author

    Today’s Deepakity:

    Cosmic self is the unconditioned whole infinite mind. We are that at the level of being, prior to thinking feeling & perceiving

  38. J-Mac

    keiths:
    J-Mac,

    I am spending most of my time at home these days so that I can care for my beloved and infirm 22-year-old cat.Having retired recently, I am able to do this, for which I am grateful.

    One of Frida’s favorite comforts is to sleep cradled in my arm. While she does that, I entertain myself by reading, surfing the Web, and commenting at TSZ.I also have other reasons for commenting here, which I’ve described elsewhere.

    If you’d like, I can track down one of the comments in which I explain.

    But I sense that your question isn’t really a question, but rather a complaint.

    I’m sorry but I’m missed your comment…
    Yes, please elaborate as I’m a very interested in all the reasons for your commenting and more…
    People say I have an inquiring mind … I hope they are right…

  39. Gregory

    “Sounds like someone needs a hug.”

    After rinsing off the bizarrely un-normal views regularly demonstrated by anti-religion TSZers (the vast majority; yawn, giggle, ughh!), yes, that’s exactly the point! ; )

  40. RumraketRumraket

    I don’t hate you Gregory, and in fact I only wish you happiness and wellbeing. Have a nice day.

  41. newton

    Gregory:
    “Sounds like someone needs a hug.”

    After rinsing off the bizarrely un-normal views regularly demonstrated by anti-religion TSZers (the vast majority; yawn, giggle, ughh!), yes, that’s exactly the point! ; )

    Common ground achieved

  42. fifthmonarchyman

    walto: So now, because you choose to use “God” in the way you do, you think you can infer

    (2) If I don’t know (1) then it’s impossible to know anything at all.

    Not at all

    I probably should have been more clear

    I’m not saying that I have to know (1) or it’s impossible to know anything at all. I’m saying

    1a) if God can’t reveal so that I can know then knowledge is impossible.

    (1a) follows necessarily from the definition of omnipotent. If it’s possible God can do it by definition.

    My argument is not about what I know but about what God can reveal.

    I know that —-God can reveal or I can’t know anything at all

    walto: If you can know things because you define terms in certain ways, then there are an infinite number of propositions you can know in the same manner.

    I don’t think you understand. It’s not that I can know things because of the way I define terms. It’s that God can reveal thing because of who he is.

    walto: God doesn’t have to exist for that to be the case. All that must be the case is that our ability to define terms in certain ways allows us to know analytic propositions.

    I would say that God is necessary even for us to be able to define terms but that is beside the point.

    walto: But as I’ve said, there’s no claim that (2) follows from (1) here.

    That is OK, I never meant to say that (2) follows from (1) I am saying that (2) follows from (1a)

    I’m sure that you will agree that (2) follows necessarily from (1a).

    walto: (I leave aside here the “Christianity” baloney. I take it that to most people in the world “God” doesn’t imply Jesus.)

    After we agree on (1A) we can discuss exactly what kind of God can reveal stuff so that I can know it.
    I predict that closer we look the more a revealing God will look like Yahweh.

    walto: In sum, to the extent that its premises are compelling, nothing follows from your little syllogism about God’s existence, and to the extent that it DOES suggest to anybody that God exists, it’s entirely implausible without begging the question.

    The problem here I’m sure you will agree is not with my syllogism as I intended but with a straw-man version of it.

    Also You need to understand my purpose is not to demonstrate the existence of God but the existence of knowledge.

    Everyone already knows that God exists.

    What we need to know is whether we have any reason to believe that knowledge exists

    peace

  43. newton

    fifthmonarchyman: I don’t think you understand. It’s not that I can know things because of the way I define terms. It’s that God can reveal thing because of who he is.

    Per definition

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