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Magical Thinking Is Good For You

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the grow-out-those-playoff-beards dept.

Science 467

Hugh Pickens writes "Natalie Wolchover says even the most die-hard skeptics among us believe in magic. Humans can't help it: though we try to be logical, irrational beliefs — many of which we aren't even conscious of — are hardwired in our psyches. 'The unavoidable habits of mind that make us think luck and supernatural forces are real, that objects and symbols have power, and that humans have souls and destinies are part of what has made our species so evolutionarily successful,' writes Wolchover. 'Believing in magic is good for us.' For example, what do religion, anthropomorphism, mysticism and the widespread notion that each of us has a destiny to fulfill have in common? According to research by Matthew Hutson, underlying all these forms of magical thinking is the innate sense that everything happens for a reason. And that stems from paranoia, which is a safety mechanism that protects us. 'We have a bias to see events as intentional, and to see objects as intentionally designed,' says Hutson. 'If we don't see any biological agent, like a person or animal, then we might assume that there's some sort of invisible agent: God or the universe in general with a mind of its own.' According to anthropologists, the reason we have a bias to assume things are intentional is that typically it's safer to spot another agent in your environment than to miss another agent. 'It's better to mistake a boulder for a bear than a bear for a boulder,' says Stewart Guthrie. In a recent Gallup poll, three in four Americans admitted to believing in at least one paranormal phenomenon. 'But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in. Maybe you feel anxious on Friday the 13th. Maybe the idea of a heart transplant from a convicted killer weirds you out. ... If so, on some level you believe in magic.'"

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467 comments

Baloney (5, Insightful)

dtmos (447842) | about 2 years ago | (#39680519)

But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in.

Nope. Not a bit of it. In my experience, only believers believe that everyone else must secretly be a believer. The rest of us live a fact-based life.

Re:Baloney (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39680583)

But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in.

Nope. Not a bit of it. In my experience, only believers believe that everyone else must secretly be a believer. The rest of us live a fact-based life.

I think you are thinking of a complete belief in magical thinking, whereas this is talking about the "magical" type of thought that "this car does not like you to use full throttle until its warmed up", or feeling anger at a beer bottle with a top thet "doesn't want to come off". If you stop and reflect of course you know its nonsense, but I bet you sometimes have those thoughts anyway.

Re:Baloney (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680591)

"this car does not like you to use full throttle until its warmed up", or feeling anger at a beer bottle with a top thet "doesn't want to come off"

What? I've never thought of any of that before.

Re:Baloney (4, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39680603)

I say "Oh God" when I'm having sex, doesn't mean I believe in god one bit.

Re:Baloney (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680699)

Does it really get that bad?

Re:Baloney (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680995)

You say "Oh God" to your right hand? Does it respond? Sounds pretty weird to me.

Re:Baloney (5, Insightful)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 2 years ago | (#39680693)

That's just language. Saying a bottle top "doesn't want to come off" doesn't imply that the speaker truly believes the bottle top is sentient and wants to stay capped to the bottle. Likewise saying "this car does not like you to use full throttle until its warmed up" would be a way to communicate to someone that the engine doesn't function properly at cold temps and full throttle. I don't see how those types of sayings equate to someone believing in "magic".

Re:Baloney (4, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | about 2 years ago | (#39680729)

I don't think using an occasional anthropomorphic expression in jest reflects "magical thinking." If you really believe that the car consciously dislikes going full throttle before getting warm, or the bottle has made a choice to hang onto the cap, that's magical thinking. But I don't think most who use those expressions mean them literally.

Re:Baloney (5, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#39680861)

Well, I'll admit to this. I'm a Secular Humanist, I don't think that there are any forces out there that are caused by magical critters and that we could explain it all with some simple science. I know that we don't have all the answers, but I don't think any of the answers are "ghosts", "a wizard did it" or "it was the Hand of God!"

Yet, for some reason, computers and electronics will start working better when I get close to them. It's almost like they know that I am ready, willing, and eager to take them apart and that I'm carrying a screwdriver. It's even the machines that I haven't seen before.

Re:Baloney (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680731)

"does not like you to use full throttle until its warmed up" with "a top thet 'doesn't want to come off'"

That's not magic, that's my wife.

Re:Baloney (4, Interesting)

chadenright (1344231) | about 2 years ago | (#39680755)

But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in.

Nope. Not a bit of it. In my experience, only believers believe that everyone else must secretly be a believer. The rest of us live a fact-based life.

I think you are thinking of a complete belief in magical thinking, whereas this is talking about the "magical" type of thought that "this car does not like you to use full throttle until its warmed up", or feeling anger at a beer bottle with a top thet "doesn't want to come off". If you stop and reflect of course you know its nonsense, but I bet you sometimes have those thoughts anyway.

I've found that that kind of anthropomorphization is useful as placeholders for other, complex causations. Perhaps the car has a mechanical or design flaw that makes full throttle when it's cold problematic. Perhaps the beer bottle has a manufacturer defect making it extra-hard to open. In either case, anthropomorphizing it can be a useful placeholder for the exact cause of your difficulties.

BS is more like it (2)

Dogbertius (1333565) | about 2 years ago | (#39680893)

You may be confusing belief in imaginary nonsense with the figure of speech known as apostrophe:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe_(figure_of_speech) [wikipedia.org]

Can't recall ever thinking that an inanimate bottle cap is somehow venting some sort of rage against me by magically altering its physical properties such as hardness and tensile strength just so lucky ol' me has a hard time removing it from the bottle to which it is affixed. Can't say I've ever understood this primitive "instinct" that inorganic material objects somehow develop personalities and violate the fundamental laws of physics just to vex me of all beings. I call BS.

Re:Baloney (4, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#39680897)

Those aren't quite the same things. In the case of warming up the car, that's not magical thinking, it is thinking something wrong. Not everyone knows everything, so all of us are going to think things that are false if they are about topics beyond our knowledge, but being wrong isn't the same as magical thinking. I don't know how cars work that well. For all I know, doing that could be problematic for a valid, scientifically explainable reason. I could tell a skeptic, as a random example, that putting nitrogen on their lawn will improve its ability to stay green in the middle of summer, and since a lot of people wouldn't know one way or the other about that, it would be easy to accept that as fact and assume there's a biological explanation they simply don't know, when it is not. That does not indicate magical thinking, just that it is not humanely possible to investigate every single thing you hear, so some untrue things are going to slip past the ol' BS detector. The second example is just emotion, and everyone gets irrational emotions every now and again. Again, it isn't the same as magical thinking. The examples the article mentions (fear of Friday 13th, thinking your pants will summon friends, and the organ transplant thing) on the other hand are pretty clear examples of magical thinking. Believing in connections that aren't there and make no sense is what magical thinking is about, not simply being wrong or having an irrational moment.

Re:Baloney (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | about 2 years ago | (#39680989)

But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in.

Nope. Not a bit of it. In my experience, only believers believe that everyone else must secretly be a believer. The rest of us live a fact-based life.

I think you are thinking of a complete belief in magical thinking, whereas this is talking about the "magical" type of thought that "this car does not like you to use full throttle until its warmed up", or feeling anger at a beer bottle with a top thet "doesn't want to come off". If you stop and reflect of course you know its nonsense, but I bet you sometimes have those thoughts anyway.

I think the word your are seeking is 'anthropomorphism'. And yes, that is a common illogical flight of fancy for most people, especially when it comes to their pets and too-young-to-communicate-yet children...'Oooh, look, she just smiled at you! How cuuute!'

Re:Baloney (1)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#39681147)

I think you're on the right track, but maybe it needs to be a little more well defined. Magic/religion/superstition is about skipping steps in logic and jumping to unfounded conclusions. One way in which we all suffer from this fault is perhaps during social interaction. For example, when we perceive judgmental behavior or unkindness from another person, do we think "well, maybe he/she had a bad day, maybe he/she is dealing with some frustrating burden at work/school/home, I can't make assumptions about this person's character" or do we think "he/she is a jerk/bitch"? There may well be some extraordinarily magnanimous people on this earth who never think the latter, but I think it's safe to say the vast majority of people will, at one time or another, come to that conclusion without pondering the other possible explanations. So to the GP, when it comes to self-critique, never say never :)

Re:Baloney (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39680605)

Yes, and no.
The underling evidences she is basing her op science article on is that it is instinctual to believe; which is is. However we can learn skill to deal with thinking about things rationally.

I hope the sentence you quoted really means that people make assumptions about things and trust that assumption in little ways.
When that assumption is brought to light I, and presumably you, apply rational critical thought to it and then dispens with it, or accept it, which ever is correct.

Re:Baloney (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | about 2 years ago | (#39680795)

However we can learn skill to deal with thinking about things rationally.

But is that a useful thing to do? In most cases, probably yes. But sometimes it's better to run away from something 'scary' for the wrong reasons. It's not a 'mistake' evolution made, it's actually useful.

Re:Baloney (4, Interesting)

foobsr (693224) | about 2 years ago | (#39680609)

fact-based

Good luck evaluating all those 'objective' facts coming in via your senses.

Recommended: Some WITTGENSTEIN.

CC.

Re:Baloney (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680923)

I know it's difficult to accept that not everyone believes they're in the Matrix, but there it is. You can't believe everything that is simply possible is true.

Re:Baloney (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680627)

Well, someone's being a real Capricorn!

Also, bullshit. (5, Informative)

denzacar (181829) | about 2 years ago | (#39680633)

Thus speaketh Matthew Hutson:

And in nearly every country around the world, the percentage of self-described atheists is only in the single digits.

Which is bullshit. [google.com] And lies. [wikipedia.org]

And to top that off, he is using the current date (at the time) to peddle this nonsense and his book through the "article" above.

Re:Also, bullshit. (2)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | about 2 years ago | (#39680865)

I like your magic statistics where atheists also include numerous categories which are explicitly not atheist.

That is why there are two links there... (1)

denzacar (181829) | about 2 years ago | (#39681163)

Some of them link to other statistics, like this one. [wikipedia.org]

And I'm not about to recreate the entire Wikipedia here.
Besides, I can only give the links to you, can't make you click on them or read the text there.

Re:Baloney (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#39680639)

Heh. I think that a person is allowed two irrational beliefs per lifetime, if only because it makes them more interesting.

Re:Baloney (5, Funny)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 years ago | (#39680811)

Heh. I think that a person is allowed two irrational beliefs per lifetime, if only because it makes them more interesting.

What's your second one?

Re:Baloney (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680653)

>Nope. Not a bit of it. In my experience, only believers believe that everyone else must secretly be a believer. The rest of us live a fact-based life.

If you're telling me you've never used expletives on a balky computer or other bit of ill behaved hardware/software, I'll call you a liar straight to your face.

Re:Baloney (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680661)

Just so. We might have some superstitious instincts, but it's a very bold claim to say that this amounts to believing in magic.

Certainly many Americans -- more so, I suspect, than citizens of other Western countries -- actually believe in magic, superstitions, etc. From that observation we should derive a need for more education and critical thinking, not some alleged universal mechanism of adaptive "magical thinking".

Re:Baloney (1)

wmbetts (1306001) | about 2 years ago | (#39680843)

Just so. We might have some superstitious instincts, but it's a very bold claim to say that this amounts to believing in magic.

Certainly many Americans -- more so, I suspect, than citizens of other Western countries -- actually believe in magic, superstitions, etc. From that observation we should derive a need for more education and critical thinking, not some alleged universal mechanism of adaptive "magical thinking".

It could also be the extra 100 million or so people we have. According to Wikipedia the US has 313,349,000 people and the nearest western country would be Brazil with 192,376,496 people, but don't let that get in the way of your American bashing.

Re:Baloney (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | about 2 years ago | (#39680671)

Indeed.

After reading that summary I thought about it for a little while... Trying to come up with instances of magical thinking in my own life. Not to prove anyone wrong, but out of curiosity.

Do we really all think magically?

But I really couldn't come up with anything.

Oh, sure... Maybe I'll get spooked and dash up the stairs in the middle of the night after watching a horror movie... But I don't actually believe anything is going to jump out at me - I'm just unsettled from the movie.

If I see something neat and orderly out in the wild I might speculate on whether somebody built it, or if it was naturally occurring, or perhaps was a product of human intervention... You know - the differences between an arrangement of rocks that makes a convenient stairway, somebody going out an legitimately building a stairway, and having people use the same path for so long that steps become worn into the trail. But I don't see something like that and just assume that somebody had to have made it.

And when coincidences start lining up, I might very well mutter about bad luck, or claim that somebody out there is looking out for me... But that isn't actually because I believe there's an intelligent agent out there looking out for me - it's just a figure of speech.

I really, genuinely, do not attribute anything to supernatural forces.

But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in. Maybe you feel anxious on Friday the 13th. Maybe the idea of a heart transplant from a convicted killer weirds you out. ... If so, on some level you believe in magic.

I don't feel anxious on Friday the 13th... It reminds me of the movie series, and I'm a big fan of horror movies. Although I may very well feel creeped-out after watching several Friday the 13th tonight.

Similarly, the idea of organ transplantation in general weirds me out. I'd prefer that my internal organs remain internal, and I don't much like the thought of somebody cutting me open and replacing parts. But if something breaks, and I need a replacement, I don't much care where it comes from.

Re:Baloney (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680689)

I don't believe you.

Re:Baloney (3, Funny)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#39680733)

Of course in my experience, some people believe that everything which is written in a slashdot comment is true.
The rest of us live a fact-based life.

Re:Baloney (1)

Goocifer (2609931) | about 2 years ago | (#39680747)

And to be fair: a heart transplant from a convicted killer isn't necessarily a bad thing to be sketched out by. It could be that the convicted killer had some transmissible disease (recognized yet or not) that caused him to kill or a false conviction (or a for-profit harvesting racket in some places).

Re:Baloney (1)

lsolano (398432) | about 2 years ago | (#39680841)

Absolutely.

Religious people for example, think that non-believers are just pretending that they don't believe in god but they think is obvious that everyone believes.

And please, don't complain with them about that.

Re:Baloney (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680885)

Seriously? Then I don't know what 'religious people' you know, but they must be real deluded folks.

Of course, I might be more willing to assert that "religious people, for example, think that non-believers are just deluding themselves in their lack of a belief in a god", but that's a completely different sort of notion...

Re:Baloney (2)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39680953)

Well I have heard the claim many times from religious folk that Atheism requires just as much faith as any form of Theism

Which is stupid and also belittling to the real faith they value.

Re:Baloney (1)

lsolano (398432) | about 2 years ago | (#39681239)

I wanted to talk more about that they think that non believers just want to show off themselves as non believers. Like if it was a cool thing only.

In your point of view, which I agree 100% too, they even feel pity for non believers. I know people that get too sad of knowing that some of their friends are going to hell and they can not do anything about it.

Re:Baloney (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | about 2 years ago | (#39680851)

Have you never, ever, thought that computers have a mind of their own, especially when trying to fix a stubborn bug? Have you never, ever, experienced a heisenbug and thought for a second that there's someone (let's call them PC elves) flipping randomly an obscure boolean variable and enjoying your misfortune? Not even a hint of that feeling? If that's the case, either you've never programmed or you aren't human.

Re:Baloney (1)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | about 2 years ago | (#39680853)

Mot ironic statement I've heard in a long time...
Surely you wish to believe "the rest of us live a fact-based life," this is an unprovable statement based completely on faith and your intuition.

Re:Baloney (1)

NeverSuchBefore (2613927) | about 2 years ago | (#39680939)

Nope. I've said things like that even when I had no confidence that they're true. Sometimes it's just a way to insult someone. Has nothing to do with faith or intuition.

Re:Baloney (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | about 2 years ago | (#39680927)

But even for those few of us who claim to be complete skeptics, belief quietly sneaks in.

Nope. Not a bit of it. In my experience, only believers believe that everyone else must secretly be a believer. The rest of us live a fact-based life.

Really? Never crossed your fingers while hitting 'compile'? Never knocked on wood (hur hur) or tossed salt over your shoulder? Never had a rabbit's foot, or avoided stepping on a crack in the sidewalk, even as a kid? Never stood on your head and drank a cup of water to 'cure' hiccups? (Okay, maybe that was just my family...)

It's these little superstitions that the author is referring to, although for most of them I would argue that they are simply passed on with our mother's milk, nothing to do with any pre-disposition or 'hardwiring'. It's not like we actually believe that they work or anything, but all the same, some of them are deucedly hard to shake...*shrugs*, maybe it is built into us on a deeper level, who knows?

Re:Baloney (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#39680961)

Unfortunately, skeptics also have a belief system with a problem:
1. By Godel Incompleteness Theorems [wikipedia.org], no matter what axioms you start with, there are unprovable but true statements to be made about mathematical systems.
2. Science can demonstrate that the universe follows laws which can be defined and understood mathematically.
3. By (1) and (2), there are true laws of the universe that can be defined mathematically but are not derivable from any mathematical understanding of the universe.
4. Ergo, believing only those things which can be demonstrated by science to be true necessarily means believing things to be not true that are in fact true.

I'm not saying that it's in any way wise to believe any old kook with an idea, but that you have to be skeptical of some skeptics. Specifically, beware the skeptic who refuses to believe that something happened that doesn't fit their worldview when there is strong evidence that it happened.

Re:Baloney (1)

znrt (2424692) | about 2 years ago | (#39680973)

your brain can't possibly operate without a fair share of beliefs. you simply could not afford to systematically reason everything everytime and get a blue screen promptly. you would not even be able to survive crossing the street.

i'd say the term "magical" is misleading in the article, but it is correct in a sense. some of those beliefs are just not consistently checked against straight facts, so they are sort of magic. this obvious mechanism applies equally to more elaborate or theoretical thinking, and is central to emotional intelligence.

denying this doesn't make you appear more logical, just the contrary, it proves you belive you can somehow magically manage to be 100% skeptic. :D

Re:Baloney (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681021)

Or think you do.

You whooshed the whole point. Your 'magical thinking' is that people can be rational (and by implication that you are). When in fact you are being at best a troll, at worst a braggart.

Let me demonstrate how in fact you are not rational. I am white and I live in 'the south'. You have probably already assumed a few different things about me and you do not even know who I am... How is that 'fact based' working out for you?

Re:Baloney (1)

letherial (1302031) | about 2 years ago | (#39681121)

"The rest of us live a fact-based life."

I think its a provable fact that none of us have any idea about the reality we live in. We probably experience less then 1% of it and we probably know only 10% of it..though this is all speculation because again, we dont know that much.

Standing in firm belief of a god, or lack of...is equal ignorance. While following fact base is certainly the best way to handle it, this holds in what you don't know as well; It is not a fact that there is no intelligent design, or more broadly, a spiritual side of life.

Re:Baloney (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681227)

The rest of us live a fact-based life.

You only believe in facts, but yet it would be difficult to call your statement a fact. Your presenting a view of the world that isn't based on facts to criticize other world views because they aren't based on facts.

Re:Baloney (1)

onebeaumond (1230624) | about 2 years ago | (#39681249)

Sensation could be what most people mean by magic. For example, the sensation of warmth is different than knowing that the temp is 75degF. Sensation is something we can fall back on when our big brain has nothing else to offer.

well ok (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680535)

It's also bad for you.

So? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39680553)

Just because it's adaptive doesn't mean that it is correct.

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#39680607)

Indeed not—but it does mean we need to change our rhetoric towards the unenlightened. "This whole 'god' thing was nice for all those thousands years and all that we kept re-inventing religion, but it's time to move on from old instincts; you're smart enough to grow beyond that system of social control" comes across a lot more pleasantly than "you're stupid and you should reject everything that you believe because it's all made-up trash."

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | about 2 years ago | (#39680889)

It's impossible to persuade most of religious people no matter what you do. The only realistic way to get rid of religion is to prevent religious people from infecting the next generation and waiting for the current one to die off.

Re:So? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#39681055)

Not true. Religion is in sharp decline in many first-world countries. A cultural attitude that prevalently paints religion as an outdated custom has had enormous success; the Church of Sweden claimed to have 82.9% of the country's population as followers in 2000 and 72.9% in 2008. The US is pretty remarkable in its capacity to continually invent tribal shamans.

I don't believe in magic (5, Funny)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#39680557)

I believe that sufficiently advanced technology exists that will manifest itself on time to help me. So, I'm, like, totally rational.

Unless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680559)

Your magical thinking doesnt match the magical thinking of the majority at the time... Then you're an evil satanist and the root of all evil and must be stopped by any means necessary.

Personally i like reality and fact instead. Much more reliable and not likely to change massively depending on what arguement i'm having.

"Humans can't help it" (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#39680561)

I disagree with that claim, but it certainly is real hard to keep your brain in rational mode.

Re:"Humans can't help it" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680717)

A _single_ human can't help believing in magic, but humans (plural) can. The opposite is also true. Example: monotheism. There are all kinds of religious constructs that are totally far fetched, and totally beyond what anything evolutionarily adaptive might look like (if by evolution we exclude human culture).

Human culture is exceptionally malleable, and human minds are engineered to be molded by our culture. It's one thing to say that people will always see ghosts in the dark; it's another to suggest that we'll always be stuck with Christian or Muslim fundamentalists, or to apologize for them.

Re:"Humans can't help it" (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39680915)

I disagree with that claim, but it certainly is real hard to keep your brain in rational mode.

Indeed. I think it's important for people who value rationality to realize that it's just a trick our brains have learned, not their inherent method of operation. I think more often than "magical thinking", simple emotion gets in the way of rational thought.

And I don't care who you are or how rational you think you are, your emotions affect -- or even effect -- your thoughts. Emotions are how evolution got us to go after the things we need for survival. We eat and screw not to sustain ourselves and the species, but because we are hungry and horny. Loneliness encourages us to form group bonds which improve survival -- but survival is not the thought on our minds when we do it. It is our emotional needs that we are seeking to satisfy.

And when your sense of identity is based around being rational, then one of your emotional needs is to feel you are rational. Which you may end up doing even when you're not being rational.

The point is that for anyone who values rationality, it's very important to understand the difference between being rational -- you aren't -- and being capable of rationality -- you are! But it takes effort.

That;s not what the evidence says (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39680571)

IT says the people have a natural predisposition toward accepting the unknown and putting it into a little box, and confusing Correlation with causality.

But you can develop skills to ward against it

Lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680575)

>hardwired in our psyches
No

Re:Lies (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680679)

Thinking humans are inherently rational is a good example of magical thinking.

Re:Lies (1)

Alex Belits (437) | about 2 years ago | (#39680935)

Humans are not "rational", they just don't have an inherent tendency to be irrational. When they have knowledge, they use it to study the unknown, or at least look for relevant knowledge. When all they have is belief and ignorance, they extrapolate their beliefs, creating more and more bizarre superstitions.

The only reasons this crap flies, is that US has uneducated population, so being a superstitious idiot is considered normal.

Bias must be recognized to be corrected for. (5, Interesting)

Greg Merchan (64308) | about 2 years ago | (#39680629)

People also prefer people like themselves. Unchecked this can turn into an unrecognized racism, a common bias. Bolstered it can become the ideological racism most people abhor.

Re:Bias must be recognized to be corrected for. (1)

mutube (981006) | about 2 years ago | (#39680983)

This is exactly it.

Even if you agree with the premise being pushed here it doesn't mean "religion is good for us". All that is proved is that religion is a side effect of other behaviours that are "good for us" and that on balance religion is not deleterious enough to counterbalance the good that is done.

As in your bias/racism point our ability to identify this means that we now have the ability to have one without the other. We have no obligation to pander to evolutionary hangovers.

Tell that too (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#39680675)

The poor students in Tennesse who had dreams of becoming biologists or much worse women in Afghanistan.

Just 50 years ago it was a very different place before the fundies from the middle east moved in and brainwashed and changed the culture.

Re:Tell that too (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 years ago | (#39680895)

The poor students in Tennesse who had dreams of becoming biologists or much worse women in Afghanistan.

Why would poor students in Tennessee have dreams of becoming worse women in Afghanistan? (And no, the new law in Tennessee won't prevent them from becoming biologists. That's just FUD.)

Re:Tell that too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681109)

They can still become biologists, but it's going to be a lot tougher. For example, University of California schools won't even accept applications from people graduating from Tennessee high schools.

That's probably behind all this Ann Romney BS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680713)

She never worked a day in her life. She's been the wife of a millionaire son of another millionaire.

Her experiences are considerably buffered from that of the average person in America, woman or not.

Yet Romney cited her as the basis of all his knowledge of Woman-kind.

Attacking that notion apparently triggers people's instinctual love for the mother figure, since that's all she's got, and causes people to act out emotionally instead of asking ourselves something like "How does Ann Romney have any idea what the average person's life is like as she decided which Cadillac to drive today?" which would be prudent.

Stupidity. (2, Interesting)

Alex Belits (437) | about 2 years ago | (#39680777)

A day doesn't pass on this site without some asshole presenting a debunked, discredited and obsolete idea (hardware virtualization, non-network-transparent graphics environment, free market, now religion and superstition) as something new and useful, without even presenting an evidence that he is familiar with the reason why it is considered debunked, discredited and obsolete. Leave alone, making an argument against those reasons.

Colossal arrogance (2)

laughingcoyote (762272) | about 2 years ago | (#39680781)

The arrogance of this line of thinking always gets me. "I believe in things I have inadequate or no evidence for, so everyone else must too!"

It doesn't work like that, at least not for me. I got married on Friday the 13th and it didn't bother me a bit (and it went off perfectly), and while I do have some objects I like for no other reason than the memories they call to mind, I certainly do not think they are "lucky" or have any especial significance other than to me. Nor do I have any other beliefs based upon anything other than sufficient evidence to support them.

Not all of us are superstitious, just because far too many are.

Re:Colossal arrogance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681149)

So consider this a warning, your complete lack of magical thinking ability puts you at grave risk of being eaten by bears that you mistook for rocks.

Do not forget our own miseducation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680787)

The article breif is bias in presentation. Science has a healthy skepticism about it, but also an arrogant pompusness. We must remember that we are searching, always, for the truth -- not just our idealized version of the truth. Maybe these things are true, but we are refusing to accept them in the scientific community because we have not yet figured out how to quanitfy them. Measuring something usually proves it exists, but being unable to measure it does not exclude it.

Is there a such thing as 'magic'? (1)

vistapwns (1103935) | about 2 years ago | (#39680817)

I would posit: no. Consider, today it is considered magic to say a killer's heart transplanted into your body will cause ill effects. However, this will not always be strictly magical thinking, along with most anything you can think of as magic. It would take me a much longer post to explain, but if you assume nanobots and Artificial intelligence are possible, then an entity with these technologies could actually apply an ill effect to your life because you have a killer's heart transplanted into your chest.

  But you would know if someone developed this technology right? Not necessary, of course there is the possibility of an ET applying it to our environment in a stealth fashion, along with humans developing it before you were born then simulating an 'ancient' planet like today's earth and applying such 'magical' constructs as the aforementioned ill effected killer's heart.

Since you can not physically rule out such things (though you can say it's highly unlikely anything would be that childish with such advanced technology) you have to accept that such magic may actually be a physical property of your reality.

And to top it off, there's no sensible way to approach this, the simulators/ET/whatever with AI/nanobots may give you good luck for being smart enough to say there's nothing wrong with a killer's heart, or they may say the complete opposite and say you should know better since so many average people think it's a bad idea. Statistically it might even out, but realistically you wouldn't be able to rely on statistics. Kind of mindfucking isn't it?

Welcome, we bring you greetings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680837)

Congratulations, you've taken the first breath into a new way of
viewing life.
You are an immortal spirit, tuned into this physical body.
Luminous beings we are, only containing ourselves in this
crude, dense matter. Countless people through the ages have
experienced out-of-body, or astral travel. Many do so
through frightening near-death experiences that scar them;
they have no wish to experiment with that state. Some have
learned how to invoke this state spontaneously, or through the
twilight of sleep.
Try this experiment: Lay down in a cool, quiet, dark room.. or
whatever enviornment in which you can relax. Think about
your toes, focus your thoughts and do not allow them to wander,
just focus on your toes, or a toe. Keep the image firmly fixed in
your mind. A state of extreme relaxation or meditation makes this
process much easier. Now, slowly move your thoughts to another
area of your body; a finger, perhaps, or an arm. Try and expand
your thoughts to contain parts of your body or your entire body.
Now attempt to move or expand your thoughts to something or
some place else. Are your thoughts contained in your body, or do
they reach outwards? You can meditate on a place, or person, or
memory, or anything. These are the first steps to the understanding
and enlightenment bespoken of many sources, from venerable
monks to native shamans and priests of all cultures. All life is energy
and vibration, all perception and thought are frequency. Dreams exist
outside your body, but you do not remember them, or the spirit before
your birth - your memories are artificially 'destroyed'.
But nothing, nobody, truly dies.
Anything and everything exists to touch, taste, see, the poles of
which are two things we define as emotion - Love and Fear. All else
slides between: Time, Space, and the Self. Everyone can do this,
even from within our bodies of flesh.

Welcome, brother, sister, in the name of light and love. You and your
belief has been given a great gift that is and always was yours,
it is only up to you to reach out and embrace it.

Quoted from Hugh Pickens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680847)

The link to "Hugh Pickens" leads to a page written by Hugh Pickens that pushes EW Marland as an oil industry pioneer. Regardless of your politics, the link is irrelevant to the article content.

Magical thinking bad for you (2)

canadian_right (410687) | about 2 years ago | (#39680873)

While it is true that people are hard-wired to see agency in almost anything, it is a giant leap to then claim "magical thinking is good for you". A bit of caution when in a new situation is a good thing. To believe, fervently, fairly tales and then base your actions and morals on those fairy tales often leads to bad things. We now know enough about how the universe really works that we can discard the fairy tales of ancient history. We now have GOOD reasons to believe what we believe. We now have good reasons for our morality. A person that needs a rational reason to act is very unlikely to want to kill their neighbours for wearing the wrong clothes which is exactly the sort of thing "magical thinking" leads to.

Re:Magical thinking bad for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680979)

While it is true that people are hard-wired to see agency in almost anything, it is a giant leap to then claim "magical thinking is good for you".

For reference, this is known as the naturalistic fallacy [wikipedia.org].

Magical thinking (1)

chubs (2470996) | about 2 years ago | (#39680949)

Want a great example of magical thinking being nearly universal? Go to the first 5 people you see and ask them what their suggestion on a cure for hiccups is. You will get 5 different answers with absolutely no reasoning propping them up. They usually come in pairs, too: hold your breath vs. breath deeply. Sip water vs. drink it rapidly, etc. Nobody can explain why their method of choice works (most of them don't), but they believe them nonetheless.

Really now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681005)

What the fuck is this bullshit? Fuck you Hugh Pickens - if that's even your real name.

If you want to learn more.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681085)

http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=9344 Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Professor Novella does a very good job of explaining *why* humans are hardwired to believe.

quantum mechanics (1)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#39681107)

I'm not sure if this qualifies, but some of the consequences of quantum mechanics are pretty much just "magic" if you think about them at the classical level.

Take quantum-entanglement for example, If you "observe" something, a non-newtonian, special-relativity violating consequence occurs somewhere else? But even if it does, it somehow can't violate causality? So if you believe all this stuff happens at the quantum level, but not at the classical level, are you a believer in magic? Especially if (like most of us) you, haven't actually performed any experiments, nor the experimental error of historical experiments, and don't fully understand the mathematics, and are merely trusting of a written account from someone you don't know and probably will never meet?

Of course some may just chalk this up to advanced technology appearing to be magic, but most folks don't currently have any real-world experience with this entangling stuff in technological devices (unlike the equally strange QM-tunnelling effect which many folks depend on daily in flash memory devices embedded in smartphones and ipods). So it seems to me just really a belief in QM-entanglement, not an actual concession about advanced tech like QM-tunnelling. Does that imply a belief in magic (or just simply putting faith in integrity of scientific publishing)?

Perhaps it takes a bit of a belief in magic at some level for a lay-person to really understand some apparent consequences of QM. Or perhaps we just concede like Richard Feynman conceded "that nobody [today] understands quantum mechanics.", but "maybe someday, that after all, it isn't as horrible as it looks"...

Madness stronger than Rationality (5, Interesting)

Guppy (12314) | about 2 years ago | (#39681141)

Forgive me for posting anonymously. I have some comments I'd like to make, but for practical reasons I'd rather not attach my name.

I am a graduate-level student who has been a life-long agnostic, pretty close to an atheist. Last year, I began hanging out with a Christian religious group. At first it was for the free food (which is excellent, much better in quality and quantity than any other organization on campus I've tried. Apparently they get funding from Christian donors), but over time I've come to enjoy the companionship and philosophical discussions -- I just have to sit through the occasional anti-abortion presentation and such. I make no effort to hide my religious stance, and to them, I have become something of the "token disbeliever" in the group.

To me, religion is irrational, verging on madness. But what I have come to realize is that their "madness" is stronger than our rationality. Compared to their peers, they are more likely to form relationships and to marry -- it's how eHarmony manages such high levels of marriage out of their dating arrangements (try signing up for their service and identify yourself as an agnostic or atheist, and see how far you get through the vetting process). Their strong bonds allow them to coordinate effectively and gather/distribute resources (like the donor network that funds their free food), allowing them to host events and bring in speakers at a much more often than that of other student organizations, including some really big-shot speakers on non-religious topics that have drawn quite a few listeners from outside their group. They network very effectively, forming relationships with Christians they bring on-campus, including some rather highly accomplished individuals (think CEO-level) who serve as mentors.

It would offend them for me to say that Religion was invented (or worse, to say it memetically evolved), but increasingly I can see the benefits for why it would have been so. I still can't force myself to Believe, but at this point, I am seriously considering converting sheer practical benefits (hence why I'm posting anonymously).

It's true. (1)

NeverSuchBefore (2613927) | about 2 years ago | (#39681145)

It's completely true if you define everything as magical thinking. Emotions? Magical thinking. Figures of speech? Magical thinking. Jokes? Magical thinking. Not believing you're trapped in the Matrix? Magical thinking! See? It's true!

Utterly Misguided (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681169)

with huge holes in the thought train...
No Wonder the West has repeatedly killed its magical people...

Logical? (2)

slowLearner (2498468) | about 2 years ago | (#39681187)

FTA

the sociologist James Henslin reported that gamblers will often throw dice harder when they want a high number," Hutson writes in his book, "as if the amount of force translates into the quantity of dots showing on a die." And that's logically equivalent to throwing darts at a picture of your nemesis, or sticking pins in a doll.

The reason I don't gamble for money especially in casinos is that the casinos are there to take my money and unless I am very good at working out the odds I will loose my money.

It doesn't seem logical for me to do this.

So using people who, by my reasoning, don't think logically as an example of how we all don't think logically doesn't really seem, well, logical.

Magical Thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39681245)

Bull.

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