In his New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James writes:
James is addressing how good certain ballplayers are in “clutch situations” and how much weight this should be given in valuing their contribution. Clutch ability is hard to define precisely, so fans can claim that their favorite guy is great in the clutch without really having to validate anything. From my own experience, I would argue that culture is something of a bullshit dump. When I was trying to explain certain things to my Chinese roommates back in grad school (say, the major scale in Western music), the logic of why certain things worked would only go so far before someone would just say “it’s cultural” and that would be that. Going further was very difficult.
Calling something a bullshit dump in James’ formulation doesn’t automatically invalidate that area of inquiry, but it does serve notice that one is venturing into ill-defined territory. Champions of Ronald Reagan’s presidency will often state that he restored pride to America. This is something of a bullshit dump; it cannot be measured in terms of GDP, percent of population under the poverty line, paid attendance at NFL games, flag sales, or anything like that. This lack of precision doesn’t make make the statement wrong, but it runs dangerously close to not being falsifiable, and thus not valid.
Is there a better term for this sort of thing than James’ scatalogical term? I like the concept, but would like to use language more inclusive of broader audiences.