Nonsense is nonsense. But the study of nonsense? That is a science.
Apophenia is when the human mind finds meaning in the meaningless.
A specific well-known special case of apophenia is pareidolia: the seeing of human faces in things which do not contain human faces. Like this face on Mars, or Jesus in this piece of toast.
Face on Mars
Jesus in a piece of toast
The problem with confirmation bias is that once you know what it is you begin to see it everywhere.
Apophenia is normal. When apophenia is increased beyond normal limits, hyperapophenia is achieved.
Apophenia is a risk any time that a "search for meaning" is performed. And searches for meaning, high and low, are performed constantly.
A low example: as I type this on a phone, the phone's software is looking at every word I type, and searching for meaning. If it sees an error it quickly tries to substitute it with the correct word. If I gets it right, we don't even notice. If it gets it wrong, we're frustrated. If the mistake has an accidental second meaning, then it can be funny. It's reminiscent of a Freudian slip.
Precursors to Hyper-Apophenia.
The experience of serendipity is a precursor to Hyper-Apophenia. The feeling of déjà-vu
The Onset of Hyper-Apophenia
When people are instructed to look for hidden meaning, and particularly if they are incentivized to look very hard for hidden meaning, a bout of hyperapophenia is guaranteed
Somewhere Richard Feynman writes that when the quantum electro dynamic theory fell upon him he had a vision for a moment that the entire universe might be a single subatomic particle bouncing back and forth through time interacting only with itself. I've never been able to find the place where he wrote. If you know it please write it on a postcard and send it to me here in the penitentiary.
(It is on such a day that I am apt to make one of those haphazard encounters which will alter the course of my life.)
- Wikipedia: Apophenia
- Scientific American: Patternicity
- Wikipedia: The Library of Babel
- Wikipedia: Pareidolia
- Wikipedia: Confirmation Bias
- Wikipedia: 23 Enigma
- Wikipedia: Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49
- Wikipedia: Borel's dactylographic monkey theorem
- Wikipedia: His Master's Voice (Novel)
- Wikipedia: Illusory Correlation
- Wikipedia: Superstition
- Wikipedia: Blindsight (novel)
- Wikipedia: Freudian Slip
- Masquerade (book)
- The Secret (1982 treasure book)
- 'This Goes All the Way to the Queen': The Puzzle Book that Drove England to Madness
- Wikipedia: The Conversation (1974 film)
- Why we can 'see' the house that looks like Hitler
- The Japanese Museum of Rocks That Look Like Faces