Tag Archives: Myth

Magical science

At end of year and Christmas there are the usual articles to show the silliness of Christianity, the imaginary existence of Jesus, and all other predictable targets. They’re always paper thin arguments, but are gobbled down as readily as the 500th chocolate-covered yuletide treat.

(For example, see this puff piece from The Conversation, but don’t miss the riposte.)

Today I want to point out one such article, one that also wonderfully illustrates one of the common modern scientific follies.

What is magical thinking? (and its picture) pretends to be about Santa Claus. Magical thinking is the “tendency to infer causation between seemingly related stimuli”, and may be seen when people “happily accept impossible explanations”. One such impossible explanation: Santa.

Magical thinking is the “tendency to infer causation between seemingly related stimuli”, and may be seen when people “happily accept impossible explanations”

Being familiar with the way of things, I knew this piece would really be about the non-existence of God. Hiding behind a convenient quotation (“It wasn’t me!”), the author needles “mainstream religion” for “hypocrisy” – calling believers in the Bible hypocrites for bagging the silliness of Scientology.

By inference – what a clever way to write, perfect deniability! – Bible belief is associated with a refusal to grow up, denial as a coping mechanism, and seeing the world as we want it to be.

The trouble is, the author herself, in the guise of science, demonstrates one of the most common types of magical thinking. There’s an increase number of people using untestable evolutionary-psychology claims. It’s pseudo-science, because it’s beyond testing. It’s a just so story – like ‘how the kookaburra got its laugh’ – but the author would be offended if you pointed out that she’s just propagating a myth.

Here’s the relevant paragraph:

From an evolutionary point of view you can see how important making these links have been to our survival. Being able to figure out what precedes what, and develop some method of prediction, can allow us to develop some control over our environment.

How does one test this? It’s magical science, an explanation after the facts. It assumes as true both cause (magical thinking) and effect (its evolutionary sense).

There’s nothing wrong with telling myths, when told honestly. There’s something seriously wrong with telling a myth and pretending it is science: that’s just a power-play and a lie.

So beware of scientists, and particularly psychological scientists, offering magical explanations for the world. It’s happening more and more frequently.

If the Jesus of Christmas is to be explained away it must be on the right terms: history and theology. As for me, I’ve well-convinced of the real life and ministry of the real Jesus, and of the real truth that the living Lord Jesus rules all things.