Sunday, April 29, 2007

HABS syndrome

I enjoyed this remark from an article about the author Kingsley Amis in The New Yorker (April 23, 2007), by Adam Gopnik:
It is a very good thing to have a built-in bullshit detector, but a bad thing when the bullshit detector crowds out the rest of your brain; that's why they call it being narrow-minded. You quickly reach the stage where anything ambitious, complicated, or merely foreign gets spat on along with the things that are genuinely phoney.
I'd add to this that those with HABS (hyperactive BS) syndrome, including cynics who proudly belong to "skeptics" societies, -- which revel in the presumed stupidity of others who don't belong to the club -- tend to reflexively spit on anything they regard as unorthodox or anomalous, including claims of psi experiences and experiments supporting those claims.

This is not to say that a refined BS detector is a bad thing. On the contrary, it is a necessity, especially when it comes to evaluating all those exciting new opportunities arriving in our email every day from Nigeria.

A truly refined BS detector, somewhat rare to find these days, is also recursive -- it applies its discernment not only to unexpected claims, but also to itself. It does this both to avoid the mindless spit reflex and to discriminate between the genuinely interesting and the genuinely phoney. Some day I should write a book on the tension between critical thinking and creativity, and how to apply these two skills to each other.


Dave Smith said...


Brilliant, I love it! I have come across so many people on critical thinking forums with this syndrome, I wouldn't care to count. Infectious meme perhaps ;)

borky said...

Ooh, Dean, what a beautiful lucid mind you have!

When I was ten, my form-master/teacher Mr Thornely taught me that Science consists of only three things:

Observation, Hypothesis, Evaluation

and of those three, the most important was Evalutation.

What he wanted me to particularly note was how the most critical stage in Evaluation was when one was confronted by results that were exactly what you expected, because that was the time when you should most be suspicious, yet it was also the time when most scientists were at their least questioning.

I'd say my Mr. Thornely would've most heartily approved of your BS detector that also tests itself.

tinkonthebrink said...

If you could please write that book, with maybe a brief guideline suitable for lamination, I would appreciate it very much.
Otherwise it's nice to read your thoughts and that will have to do.

Dean Radin said...

To J and anyone else who'd like to leave me an anonymous note on my blog, please feel free to submit your comments, but don't leave your name in the message. I can accept or reject comments, but I cannot edit them. If you want to send me a personal email, send it to dean at noetic dot org.

By the way, the reason I moderate this blog is because this isn't a public discussion forum. It's a record of my personal musings and opinions. I stopped allowing anonymous comments because I had to reject many of them.

J said...

dean said: “Some day I should write a book on the tension between critical thinking and creativity, and how to apply these two skills to each other.”


a critical cranium criticizes
a creative cranium creates;

a creatively critical cranium hypothesizes
a critically creative cranium contemplates

I love poetry! I admire science! It's all such fun. :o)

dpsych said...

I like to think have a fairly refined BS detector. I read S.Inquirer from time to time and find my BS detector beeping insistantly on occasion. I am currently reading Intangled Minds and so far not a peep lol. Great Job [so far :-)]