The “study” mentioned in the post linked above is the amazingly titled “Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit.” The study in question showed that many people were not able to differentiate computer-generated gibberish from actual Deepak Chopra tweets (such as “Attention and intention are the mechanics of
manifestation.”). The compu-babbler was programmed to spit out grammatically correct, but logically vacuous, statements; they were designed to seem “profound” but were, instead, what the authors describe as “bullshit.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that the less skeptical a person was (short form: the more religious, superstitious or accepting of “alternate medicine” and the like), the more likely they were to find the gibberish to be “profound.”
The authors of the original study tried to determine just what it was about some people that they would see nonsense as “deep,” what they called “bullshit receptivity.”
The point of the Gizmodo article linked above is that there are those who take issue with the original studies methodology. In short, the argument is that not all statements that are devoid of logic yet seem to be profound are in fact bullshit. Zen koans are given as examples of logically-lacking statements that still inspire “meaning” (“what is the sound of one hand clapping,” that sort of thing). But the response to *that* is… just because you get a sense of meaning out of something doesn’t mean it’s not still pure bullshit. If a statement can be analyzed objectively and is found lacking… well, there ya go.
This sort of thing seems to be what keeps a lot of philosophy majors busy, but engineers, scientists, mathematicians have a different take on it. Engineers *have* to. A statement that talks but says nothing might give you a warm fuzzy, but it doesn’t tell you where to drill the hole.
I suspect there’s a lot more to “bullshit receptivity” variability levels than purely education or major. Because I’ve known well-educated successful engineers who nevertheless glom onto statements that mean absolutely *nothing* to me. The words don’t even make sense together, yet to them, they are of vital importance. I’ve seen people go into a state not far from ecstasy when contemplating the phrase “I am.” I’ve seen people lose their damned minds when they hear or say “He is risen!” This latter one always flummoxes me. I know what it means, I know what it refers to (Jesus woke up and wandered off after being crucified), but the reaction to the statement just doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Why so excited? You’ve heard it before. You’ve heard it all your life; the religion has been yapping on about it for going on two thousand years now. So why is it so exciting the bajillionth time you hear it? Then there’s the newage nonsense about “energy fields” and “vortexes” and whatnot. What do these even *mean?* Sure, a lot of the people spouting this are just makin’ it up as part of the scam. But the scam wouldn’t work if so many people didn’t believe it. And then there’s just about all of modern political “thought,” especially Marxist-based claptrap that loves the long drawn out nonsensical rhetoric that throws out a whole bunch of words that, taken as a whole, don’t mean a whole lot. Virtually everything written about “critical race theory” and the like is just so much word salad.
I often wonder if there might be not a spectrum of acceptance of bullshit, but sometimes a gulf. Because while I’m sure there’s some utter bullshit that I’ll see and nod my head at, there is a *lot* of it that makes me think I’m seeing an alien language being employed. A language that has taken words from English and then completely revised the meaning of the words to mean something entirely different from what I understand them to mean.