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. fifthmonarchyman

    newton: Per definition

    Not per definition but per essence.

    Water is not wet because I define it as wet. I define water as wet because that is what it is.

    peace

  2. fifthmonarchyman

    GlenDavidson: Shouldn’t you actually be making meaningful arguments then, rather than parroting cliches from sermons?

    If God could be proven by argument. Then he could be dis-proven by argument.

    Instead of being the conclusion to an argument God is the only thing that makes arguments possible.

    Sometimes folks just need to be reminded of that

    peace

  3. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    Let’s take this step by step. No digressions, no evasions. Just answer the questions directly.

    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.

    Patrick is correct. Do you acknowledge that?

  4. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: Patrick is correct. Do you acknowledge that?

    no
    That God can reveal so I can know it is not a particular revelation.
    Revelation in this context is a process not a proposition.

    You are still tripping up on the problem of the one and the many

    It might be difficult to know whether any particular water droplet is part of the cloud in front of me. But It’s undeniable that the cloud in front of me is made up of water droplets.

    peace

  5. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    That God can reveal so I can know it is not a particular revelation.
    Revelation in this context is a process not a proposition.

    Your #2 is a proposition:

    2) I can’t be wrong when I say that God can reveal so that I can know.

    It’s something you claim to know.

    This is obvious, fifth. Why are you embarrassing yourself this way?

  6. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: Let’s take this step by step. No digressions, no evasions. Just answer the questions directly.

    Why not follow your own advise and tell me how you know stuff.

    I know Ive asked the question enough to expect some kind of answer.

    peace

  7. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    You’re trying to change the subject.

    Do you acknowledge that #2 is in fact a proposition — one that you claim to know is true?

  8. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: It’s something you claim to know.

    OK
    but it’s not a particular revelation it’s a process by which knowledge is possible.

    There are other things I know for certain as well but none of them are particular revelations rather they are more general.

    Not like specific water droplets but more like clouds

    peace

  9. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: Do you acknowledge that #2 is in fact a proposition — one that you claim to know is true?

    no “God can reveal so that I can know” is definitional not propositional

    I know it the same what I know that a circle is circular.
    I can’t be wrong about the circularity of circles or knowledge is impossible.

    That does not mean that I know that circles are circular with out revelation just that I don’t know it by a particular revelation.

    peace

  10. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: You’re trying to change the subject.

    Nope just pointing out that you always ask but never answer questions

    peace

  11. keithskeiths Post author

    You acknowledge that #2 is a proposition. You claim to know it, by revelation. It is a particular proposition. In other words, it is a particular thing that you think is revelation.

    Your #1 states:

    1) I can be wrong about any particular thing that I think is revelation.

    Yet #2 is exactly such a thing. Therefore you can be wrong about #2. But if you can be wrong about #2, then it is in fact false:

    2) I can’t be wrong when I say that God can reveal so that I can know.

    Your argument fails.

  12. keithskeiths Post author

    You are really something, fifth.

    In your followup comment I see that you wrote this:

    no “God can reveal so that I can know” is definitional not propositional

    Yet just a few comments earlier, you had this exchange with newton:

    fifth:

    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.

    newton:

    Per definition

    fifth:

    Not per definition but per essence.

    Water is not wet because I define it as wet. I define water as wet because that is what it is.

    It’s propositional, not definitional. No, wait — it’s definitional, not propositional. No, wait…

    World’s Worst Apologist. Incompetence incarnate.

  13. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: Yet #2 is exactly such a thing. Therefore you can be wrong about #2. But if you can be wrong about #2, then it is in fact false:

    Interesting
    lets be clear

    number 2 is “I can’t be wrong when I say that (God can reveal so that I can know.)”

    There is an apparent difference I suppose between saying

    2) I can’t be wrong when I say X is X
    and
    2A) I can’t be wrong that X is X

    2 Seems to be particular and propositional but 2a is obviously definitional and general rather than particular.

    It probably would have been less ambiguous if I would of originally posted 2a rather than 2 but the underlying thought is the same none the less.

    God can reveal because that is who God is
    it’s not a particular revelation but a universal general thing.

    It’s definitional

    Like X is X.

    peace

  14. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: It’s propositional, not definitional. No, wait — it’s definitional, not propositional. No, wait…

    let me lay it out

    Here is what particular propositional thing looks like

    1) The longer ending of Mark is original

    Here is what a general definitional thing looks like

    2) circles are circular

    I think God has revealed both 1 and 2

    I know 2 by revelation if I know 1 I know it by revelation as well.

    however

    I could be wrong about 1 and particular propositional things like it.
    by the same token
    If knowledge is possible at all I could not be wrong about 2 and definitional things like it.

    This is simply the one and the many (or the concrete and the abstract if you like) and it’s tripping you up

    peace

  15. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: It’s propositional, not definitional. No, wait — it’s definitional, not propositional. No, wait…

    It’s not difficult and I did not stutter

    It’s definitional not propositional but I don’t know it because I define it.
    I know it because God revealed it and because that is who he is.

    This seems to be pretty strait forward to me.
    Why do you find it difficult to understand?
    Is it because you can’t fathom a definition that is not subjective and plastic and anthropocentric?

    peace

  16. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    You have Jesused yourself into a pitifully obvious contradiction:

    #2 is propositional, not definitional
    #2 is definitional, not propositional

    Not only did you manage to contradict yourself, but you did it within the space of a single hour.

    That is mind-boggling incompetence.

    Now you’re flopping around, hoping to raise enough dust to obscure your stupid mistake.

    Praise Jesus for leading another Christian to an ignominious defeat. He doesn’t seem to like you very much, fifth.

  17. keithskeiths Post author

    J-Mac,

    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…

    I haven’t found the comment I was thinking of, but perhaps this series of comments describing my deconversion will assuage your curiosity in the meantime.

  18. OMagain

    keiths: World’s Worst Apologist. Incompetence incarnate.

    Strange how FMM cannot have a revelation that reveals to him how to communicate about revelation such that other people understand what he understands.

  19. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: You have Jesused yourself into a pitifully obvious contradiction:

    #2 is propositional, not definitional
    #2 is definitional, not propositional

    when and where did I say that #2 was propositional? You are usually quick to provide a link. It would be helpful if you provided one now. As it is you might be accused of making stuff up

    I’ll grant that as I said before perhaps #2 might sound a little propositional if you are reading uncharitably but that was never the intent and a simple clarification #2A makes it’s definitional nature obvious.

    Just because #2 is definitional does not mean that I’m the one doing the defining.

    We humans don’t create definitions, definitions exist eternally in the mind of God we can only only hope that he reveals them to us.

    It’s only because definitions exist eternally in the mind of God that we can confident that a circular square will not show up tomorrow somewhere.

    keiths: Now you’re flopping around, hoping to raise enough dust to obscure your stupid mistake.

    It’s funny how you think clarification is raising dust.

    Besides I never once claimed to be infallible. Like everyone else posting here I’m human

    That is why that it’s so important to have a grounding for knowledge that is outside of myself. It’s a pity that you don’t have that necessary ingredient to your epistemology.

    As it is if you ever make even a single mistake everything you think you know is suspect. I don’t have that problem because my knowledge does not depend on me.

    peace

  20. fifthmonarchyman

    OMagain: Strange how FMM cannot have a revelation that reveals to him how to communicate about revelation such that other people understand what he understands.

    I don’t have the ability to reveal stuff so that you can know it.
    Only God can do that and I’m not him

    When it comes to human communication misunderstanding is always a possibility. That is why it’s so important that our grounding for knowledge comes from somewhere outside of us.

    peace

  21. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:

    keiths: Let’s take this step by step. No digressions, no evasions. Just answer the questions directly.

    Why not follow your own advise and tell me how you know stuff.

    And you immediately try to digress and evade. I understand why, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to defend the nonsense you write.

  22. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman: no “God can reveal so that I can know” is definitional not propositional

    Once again you retreat to “presupposing” your claims rather than supporting them.

    What you wrote was a contradiction. You can’t get out of it by simply redefining your claim as something else. Do you really think your god favors this kind of intellectual dishonesty?

  23. fifthmonarchyman

    Patrick: Once again you retreat to “presupposing” your claims rather than supporting them.

    When I make a claim I’m happy to support it. For instance I claimed that AFAIK you don’t have grounding for knowledge that is not subject to further regress and I support it by giving you the opportunity to tell us how you know stuff.

    Patrick: What you wrote was a contradiction.

    No it’s not. The problem is in your mistaking a definitional statement for a propositional one.

    I did not redefine anything. “God can reveal” is not a proposition or a particular revelation any more than “circles are circular” is.

    The ability to reveal is simply part of the what it means to be God, Just as circular is implied in the definition of circle

    peace

  24. waltowalto

    fifthmonarchyman: 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 anythingat all

    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.

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

    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).

    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.

    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

    As I said, I wasn’t actually expecting much from you on this: you’re kind of invested, you know?

    But you’ve made my point in your response. I said you could pick the plausible premise from which nothing about God follows or the question-begging premise from which the existence of God follows, but which nobody but theists will ever grant. You chose the latter.

  25. newton

    fifthmonarchyman: Not per definition but per essence.

    And you define what that essence consists of, the ability to reveal stuff.

    Water is not wet because I define it as wet. I define water as wet because that is what it is.

    How do you justify the belief water is wet?

  26. keithskeiths Post author

    fifth,

    Why does your God make you fail, over and over? Why is it so important to him that you lose these debates with atheists, in the most humiliating ways possible?

    Why has he rejected you?

  27. keithskeiths Post author

    The good news is that you’re not actually on God’s shit list. He doesn’t exist, and neither does the list.

    The bad news is that God doesn’t exist. You’ve built your life around a fantasy.

  28. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:

    Once again you retreat to “presupposing” your claims rather than supporting them.

    When I make a claim I’m happy to support it.

    You haven’t thus far. You just call your claims “presuppositions” and act as though that’s meaningful. It’s just intellectually dishonest.

    For instance I claimed that AFAIK you don’t have grounding for knowledge that is not subject to further regress and I support it by giving you the opportunity to tell us how you know stuff.

    Burden of proof — you’re doing it wrong. Again.

    What you wrote was a contradiction.

    No it’s not. The problem is in your mistaking a definitional statement for a propositional one.

    The problem is that you refuse to support your claims.

    I did not redefine anything. “God can reveal” is not a proposition or a particular revelation any more than “circles are circular” is.

    The ability to reveal is simply part of the what it means to be God, Just as circular is implied in the definition of circle

    You claim to know everything by revelation. You admit that you can be mistaken about whether or not something you claim to know is a genuine revelation. Therefore you could be wrong about everything you claim to know, including your oh so convenient definitions.

  29. fifthmonarchyman

    walto: I said you could pick the plausible premise from which nothing about God follows or the question-begging premise from which the existence of God follows, but which nobody but theists will ever grant. You chose the latter.

    Hey walto,

    Interesting, I would say that what you are calling the “plausible premise” is not sufficient to ground knowledge.

    I would agree that non-theists will never grant Christian presuppositions any more than Christians will grant your Atheistic presuppositions.

    The only question remaining is which set of presuppositions are consistent and up to the task we require of them.

    That is why the “how do you know?” question is so important.

    peace

  30. fifthmonarchyman

    newton: And you define what that essence consists of, the ability to reveal stuff.

    No, essences are not defined by human beings the Forms exist eternally in the mind of God and are revealed to us.

    newton: How do you justify the belief water is wet?

    short answer– revelation.

    slightly longer answer, if water is not wet then any knowledge whatsoever is impossible because the law of non-contradiction does not hold.

    peace

  31. fifthmonarchyman

    Patrick: You claim to know everything by revelation. You admit that you can be mistaken about whether or not something you claim to know is a genuine revelation. Therefore you could be wrong about everything you claim to know, including your oh so convenient definitions.

    not exactly more like this

    God can reveal stuff so that I can know it.
    I can be wrong about any particular thing I think has been revealed to me.

    If knowledge is possible at all then words have meanings. If words don’t have meanings then knowledge is impossible

    Peace

  32. fifthmonarchyman

    keiths: Do you think there’s any evidence that fifth’s God does exist?

    God is not just some proposition to be supported by evidence.
    Rather he is the reason evidence is useful.

    peace

  33. fifthmonarchyman

    newton: Opinion not fact

    Subjective opinion is all he’s got so he likes to spread it around in the hope that some one will mistake it as fact.

    peace

  34. newton

    keiths:
    newton,

    Do you think there’s any evidence that fifth’s God does exist?

    In my opinion no convincing evidence but lacking omniscience it cannot be ruled out.

  35. newton

    fifthmonarchyman: Subjective opinion is all he’s got so he likes to spread it around in the hope that some one will mistake it as fact.

    peace

    He ain’t the only one,fifth.

  36. keithskeiths Post author

    keiths:

    Do you think there’s any evidence that fifth’s God does exist?

    newton:

    In my opinion no convincing evidence but lacking omniscience it cannot be ruled out.

    The existence of the Rain Fairy can’t be ruled out either, but it would be pretty stupid to build your life around a belief in her existence.

    The Rain Fairy hypothesis is at least compatible with the evidence, though in a vacuous way. Christianity can’t even manage that much, as shown by our recent discussion of the problem of evil.

  37. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:

    God can reveal stuff so that I can know it.

    How do you know? You say you know everything by revelation.

    I can be wrong about any particular thing I think has been revealed to me.

    Then you can be wrong about the existence of your god and your “knowledge” that it can reveal things to you.

    If knowledge is possible at all then words have meanings. If words don’t have meanings then knowledge is impossible

    Peace

  38. PatrickPatrick

    newton:

    keiths:
    newton,

    Do you think there’s any evidence that fifth’s God does exist?

    In my opinion no convincing evidence but lacking omniscience it cannot be ruled out.

    FFM claims to believe in the Christian god as described in what he says is the inerrant Christian bible. The myriad contradictions within the Christian bible demonstrate that it is not inerrant, calling into question his specific god claim.

  39. fifthmonarchyman

    Patrick: How do you know? You say you know everything by revelation.

    short answer— revelation
    slightly longer answer—because being able to reveal is part of what it means to be an omnipotent God

    Patrick: Then you can be wrong about the existence of your god and your “knowledge” that it can reveal things to you.

    Yes, but if that is the case then no knowledge whatsoever is possible including the knowledge that God does not exist.

    It’s Christianity or absurdity

    peace

  40. fifthmonarchyman

    Patrick: The myriad contradictions within the Christian bible demonstrate that it is not inerrant,

    Any contradictions you think are in the bible are apparent and not actual. You just think you see contradictions.

    Your finite fallible biased intellect is playing tricks on you. You simply have no way no way to insure you are not mistaken in your impression.

    It all boils down to relying on your limited biased subjective opinion.

    peace

  41. Pedant

    fifthmonarchyman: Any contradictions you think are in the bible are apparent and not actual. You just think you see contradictions.

    Your finite fallible biased intellect is playing tricks on you. You simply have no way no way to insure you are not mistaken in your impression.

    It all boils down to relying on your limited biased subjective opinion.

    peace

    The irony is delicious.

    Take a look in the mirror, subjective opinionist, AKA presuppositionist.

  42. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman:

    Yes,

    Finally you admit your error. That’s a good start.

    but if that is the case then no knowledge whatsoever is possible including the knowledge that God does not exist.

    You’ve made this claim repeatedly and never supported it with reason or evidence. Will this be the time you man up?

  43. PatrickPatrick

    fifthmonarchyman: Any contradictions you think are in the bible are apparent and not actual.

    There are dozens if not hundreds. How Saul died is one of my favorites:

    Saul committed suicide.

    1 Samuel 31:4-6

    Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.

    And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.

    So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.

    1 Chronicles 10:4

    Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.

    Saul was killed by an Amalekite.

    2 Samuel 1:8-10

    And he said unto me, Who [art] thou? And I answered him, I [am] an Amalekite.

    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.

    So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that [was] upon his head, and the bracelet that [was] on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.

    Saul was killed by the Philistines.

    2 Samuel 21:12

    And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabesh-gilead, which had stolen them from the street of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa:

    God killed him.

    1 Chronicles 10:14

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

  44. newton

    keiths: The existence of the Rain Fairy can’t be ruled out either, but it would be pretty stupid to build your life around a belief in her existence.

    That would depend on what the Rain Fairy’s Tao was.

    The Rain Fairy hypothesis is at least compatible with the evidence, though in a vacuous way. Christianity can’t even manage that much, as shown by our recent discussion of the problem of evil.

    Convince anyone?

  45. keithskeiths Post author

    keiths:

    Do you think there’s any evidence that fifth’s God does exist?

    newton:

    In my opinion no convincing evidence but lacking omniscience it cannot be ruled out.

    keiths:

    The existence of the Rain Fairy can’t be ruled out either, but it would be pretty stupid to build your life around a belief in her existence.

    The Rain Fairy hypothesis is at least compatible with the evidence, though in a vacuous way. Christianity can’t even manage that much, as shown by our recent discussion of the problem of evil.

    newton:

    Convince anyone?

    No, and that’s precisely the point. Christians recognize that the Rain Fairy hypothesis is ridiculous. What they don’t recognize, or allow themselves to recognize, is that Christianity is even worse due to its failure at resolving the problem of evil, among other flaws.

    It’s not so obvious in fifthmonarchyman and Mung, who aren’t very bright to begin with. But look at people like Vincent Torley and Joshua Swamidass, who are competent when reasoning about non-religious topics, but whose minds turn to rationalizing mush when defending Christianity.

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