The Bullshit Dialogues

Neues aus den Bullshit-Sciences! Vor ein paar Monaten bloggte ich über Gordon Pennycooks Studie „On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit“ und mit der ist Dr. Craig Dalton von der Uni Newcastle nicht einverstanden. Er meint, selbst Bullshitgeblubber könnte beim einigermaßen gebildeten Rezipienten sowas wie mentale Zustände der Transzendenz auslösen. Bullshit-Trips, quasi. (Paper: Bullshit for you; transcendence for me, PDF). Pennycooks kurze und trockene (und in meinen Augen einleuchtende) Replik: It’s still bullshit (PDF).

That it is possible for someone to find meaning in a statement does not prevent it from being bullshit. Indeed, bullshit that is not found at least somewhat meaningful would be rather impotent.

Consider the evangelizing of politicians and so-called spin-doctors, for example. Often, their goal is to say something without saying anything; to appear competent and respectful without concerning themselves with the truth. It is not the understanding of the recipient of bullshit that makes something bullshit, it is the lack of concern (and perhaps even understanding) of the truth or meaning of statements by the one who utters it.

Our original study concluded that people who are receptive to statements randomly generated without concern for meaning (i.e., bullshit) are less, not more, analytic and logical as well as more intelligent. Dalton’s commentary does not undermine this conclusion.