Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On bullshit

We often speculate about what's wrong with so many people's thought processes. You know who I'm talking about: people like wingnuts and their media parrots. Although they are today's most prominent practitioners of bullshit, the phenomenon is, unfortunately, not limited to them.

I was reading an old article about bullshit in the New Yorker and came across this passage which explains it quite well:

Creating a consensus among their peers is something that hardworking laboratory scientists try to do. But it is also what creationists and Holocaust deniers do. Rorty insists that, even though the distinction between truth and consensus is untenable, we can distinguish between "frivolous" and "serious". Some people are "serious, decent and trustworthy"; others are "unconversable, incurious and self-absorbed." Blackburn thinks that the only way to make this distinction is by reference to the truth; serious people care about it, whereas frivolous people do not. yet there is another possibility that can be extrapolated from Rorty's writings: serious people care not only about producing agreement, but also about justifying their methods for producing agreement (This for example, is something that astronomers do but astrologers don't.) That, and not an allegiance to some transcendental notion of truth, is the Rortian criteria that distinguishes serious inquirers from bullshitters.