Some people believe in magic. In Science Left Behind, in the process of debunking claims that one American political party is overwhelmingly pro-science and one is anti-science, we put a handy chart on page 213 itemizing the various anti-science positions of registered voters. Sure, evolution and climate change was higher on one side but the list of anti-science beliefs by the other side was as long as your arm - astrology, psychics, ghosts, UFOs, homeopathy, you name it and that global-warming-accepting party is more anti-science - they just have better public relations.
People have started to notice that it ain't just Republicans being science any more. Look at the Flu Shots Are Damn Dangerous headline at The Daily Beast by New York Times best-selling author Deirdre Imus and founder of the dienviro.org site devoted to environmental health - they have wisely changed it after the outcry but didn't change the URL, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/18/flu-shots-are-damn-dangerous.html.
So that's bad, but various people have always held anti-science beliefs, especially when it comes to their politics. The Great Lie of the last decade was journalists and activists convincing the bulk of scientists that one side was more anti-science than the other, a hypnosis that academics have begun to shake off.
But magic, in the broad sense, has always been embraced by lots of people in a much greater way - whether it is miracles or Harry Potter, people want to believe in magic and mystery and great unseen forces that can explain anomalies long after the Age of Reason. Lots of people in numerous walks of life believe there is some magic. Even scientists.
But people might believe it subconsciously, says psychologist Eugene Subbotsky of Lancaster University. He says that belief in magic begins in the consciousness of children (who explicitly accept it) and persists in the subconscious of adults (who explicitly deny it) and cites seven experiments to show it. 400 years after the Age of Science began there shouldn't be any belief in magic but, as I have noted in the past, there are reasons religion still exists among lots of scientists also.
Nicholas C. DiDonato writes something we all knew - sometimes the line between fantasy and reality can become blurred, like when children believe they have interacted with the Tooth Fairy, but then notes that Subbotsky found that a whole lot of older kids are willing to accept magic even after just denying it - like if a stamp self-incinerates inside an empty box that isn't 500 degrees hot. Adults will not even entertain the notion, even if they inspect the box and find no way for the incineration. Adults are epistemologically a priori while kids are a posteriori in their justifications.
In another example, DiDonato notes the difference in reaction among adults who are advising a third party about the offer of a witch to perform a magic spell, good or bad. When advising someone else, the students (naturally, this is still a psychology paper, undergraduates are required) advised to ignore both spells 50% of the time, but when the offer was made for them rather than a third party, 60% took the good spell and none took the bad.
Would you accept her offer of a spell that could help you? Credit: Shutterstock
If they don't subconsciously believe in magic, Subbotsky says, the results would not be so lopsided. I didn't know 'safe bets' were belief in magic, but I suppose they could be construed that way. And it seems right. If I take a chance on a positive spell, if nothing happens, I am break even. It I take a chance on a negative spell and nothing happens, I am still break even.
So why not take a chance on both, since I know nothing is going to happen? Why didn't someone skeptical laugh and say, 'sure, go ahead and curse me, turn me into a frog' since they knew magic did not exist?
Hey, if I am in a remote cabin in the mountains, and I go down into the basement and see a Book of The Dead, I am not reading it, even though I know Deadites do not exist. Call me anti-science but I see no upside.
What about you? Would you take the positive spell because there is something to gain and nothing to lose? Would you have avoided the negative one too?
Citation: Eugene Subbotsky, 'The Ghost in the Machine: Why and How the Belief in Magic Survives in the Rational Mind', Human Development 2011;54:126-143 DOI: 10.1159/000329129
Do you believe in magic? Seriously. by Nicholas C. DiDonato, Science on Religion
Seriously, click his link and read the article. It's good stuff!
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Case For Moon: Gateway For Open Ended Exploration, With Planetary Protection Central - On The SpaceShow
- Sweet Irony: The Environmental Impacts Of GMO Sugar Science Denial
- The Real Cost Of Milk
- Why We Get Tired When We Stay Up Too Late
- We’re Not In Europe Any More: BfR Statement On EDCs Embraces The Risk-Based Approach
- When It Comes To Replicating Psychology Studies, Good Luck
- Can't Resist Temptation? That May Not Be A Bad Thing
- "Okay, that may be true, but we never hear from them. Instead we hear from Environmental Working..."
- "You lost me at: Environmental groups, who ordinarily love centralized government and social authoritarian..."
- "Mi Cro, I happened upon your global temperature charts recently, and want to be sure I understand..."
- "You make good points. I thank you for them. I am enjoying reading your work. I agree that asteroid..."
- "Oh, okay, glad you aren't worried about little asteroids. Yes I agree, I haven't come across that..."
- Ketamine Better than Haloperidol for Sedation Onset But Not Much Else
- TIps & Tricks To Ward Off Ticks
- What is CRISPR-Cas9 and why do we need to know about it?
- Pancreatic Cancer: Surgery Improves Survival in One-third
- Intervention Decreases Adolescents’ Obesity
- What Organic and Chemical Actually Mean: A Glossary of Hijacked Terms
- Science instruments of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope successfully installed
- Tiny wasp sniffs out, picks up 'good vibrations' to battle ash borer
- Abundance inequality in freshwater communities has an ecological origin
- Family size and education levels: The right support could reverse long-held theory
- New water-quality data on impact of corn, soybeans on nitrate in Iowa streams