Magical Thinking Is Crazy!

Lady Arsinoe  

A lot of people think magic and witchcraft is for hippies, crazies, or those who have been kidnapped by aliens.  I would say to them, a lot of “normal” people are running around with some pretty cognitive dissonant ideas of their own (Birthers, for example.  Or any politician.  And Fundamentalists of every stripe).  The problem for these people is I have facts and science to back up my beliefs, not just wishful thinking.  Beliefs I am more than willing to change if contrary evidence and fact is provided.

I also realize that no matter how many facts, backed up by well-crafted studies, with irrefutable evidence presented, some people just will not let go of their preconceived notions.  A lot of the time, I get “Come on, how can you take that stuff seriously?  Magic is something out of trashy fantasy stories!  Nobody’s dumb enough to think it really works!”

Let’s break these statements into parts: 

1) Come on, how can you take that stuff seriously?  Easily. I am a scientist, in hard science disciplines (Geology, Physics, Mathematics). I firmly believe that if it can’t be stated in mathematics, it’s not science.  Just because a study seems ‘out there’, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  Plate Tectonics was once considered fringe nuttiness because it didn’t conform to the paradigm of the time.  Now, however, the science has proved true and the once dubious hypothesis is now the working norm.

After Sir Isaac Newton developed his Mechanical Universe theories, the scientists of the day thought there was nothing else worth discovering.  They had the idea that they understood everything and all the good science had been done.   Then radiation was discovered.  And that darned Einstein came along and threw a monkey-wrench in the whole understanding of the universe!  The point is—preconceived notions get in the way of new discovery.  Entrenched science is continually challenged by those upstarts willing to think outside the box.

2) Magic is something out of trashy fantasy stories!  Sure it is.  So what?  Jules Verne wrote science fiction fantasy stories.  He predicted in the 1800s that man would travel to the moon.  Arthur C. Clarke wrote profusely on science fiction and fantasy.  He also came up with the idea that geostationary satellites would be ideal telecommunications relays.  At the time, people thought he was nuts.  Who would have thought 50, or even 20, years ago, that we would be able to be able to carry miniature computers in our hands and communicate via video with the other side of the planet?  Dick Tracy did.  And now we have smartphones.

One person’s “magic” is another’s “science”.  In the middle of the last century (wow, does that sound weird to you, too?), the US Government sponsored research at the Stanford Research Institute and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) into the applicability of psychic functioning.  Did you see the moving “Men Who Stare at Goats”?  Yep, that really happened.  But, unlike the movie (which was pretty awful, by the way), SRI and SAIC proved there really is something to psi power, but the government couldn’t figure a way to use it to spy on the Russians.  Ten different experiments were conducted, six of those methods had p-values of <0.5 (range 9.1×10-8 to 0.046) and effect sizes of 0.123 to 0.550 (if you aren’t a math geek, go look up p-value and effect size for yourself).  What this means is that results these experiments were statistically significant and there was a measurable effect.  The same experiments were then conducted in different labs, but with very similar results.  That kind of consistence cannot be explained away by shoddy techniques or fraud.

3) Nobody’s dumb enough to think it really works!  The Society for Scientific Exploration is a professional organization of over 800 scientists and scholars who study unusual and unexplained phenomena.  Many of these individuals are involved in “hard science” disciplines.  Many of their studies have shown that magical thinking isn’t crazy.  Many have also debunked magical theories.  That’s the point of science.  Testing hypotheses, learning what works and what doesn’t, and forming new hypotheses to test. 

J. B. S. Haldane once stated, ‘The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine.”  Just because something is strange or outlandish doesn’t mean it can’t be true.


Lady Arsinoe’s Bio:

I was initiated into the Wiccan spiritual tradition as a First Degree in 1993.  Over the years, I continued my studies and increased my involvement.  In 2000, the members of OakSpring ( separated from Ravenwood to go our own way.  In 2006, I became the High Priestess of OakSpring, with my husband serving as High Priest.  OakSpring is large by Wiccan standards, and has been blessed to own and maintain our covenstead on 38 acres of woodland in the Metro-Atlanta area.

Like most Wiccans, my mundane life is similar to anyone else’s:  I go to work each day (for a large engineering firm), bear with traffic, and go home to relax with my family and pets.  Living a magical life isn’t always about the spells; it’s about living in a way that is harmonious with Nature, the Universe, and ourselves.  I do my best to live in accordance with Wiccan principles every day of my life.  I think that is the best way to show the world what Wicca is all about.

Filed Under: FeaturedGuest ContributorNRMsPagan & WiccaScience


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