ALS Topic 11 - Magic is always popular

Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 23 June 2018 ( )

Note: The questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence! Note: clearly not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.

Focus Questions:

1. 1. The best selling and most read writings of all time have dealt in magic and conspiracy: The daVici Code, Harry Potter, the Bible, the i-Ching ... and so on. Why is this?

2. The most powerful scientific ideas of all time are hardly within the awareness most people, who make little attempt to understand them. Why this drought of interest?

3. What proportion of your neighbours can actually describe how an internal combustion engine works, even though they drive every day? Could it be that their cars, smart phones, TV sets are really magical tokens for them, faith driven rather than logic driven gadgets?

4. What proportion of your neighbours can actually explain what fiscal policy is about? Could it be that macro economics for them is really voodoo economics, magical econobabble, and that they are persuaded to vote about this stuff as a matter of political faith rather than rational analysis? What can be done about that?

5. We hear a lot about artificial intelligenge (AI) and how it is going to put a large proportion of the workforce out of known jobs. What proportion of your neighbours can actually explain the underlying principles of AI, and relate that to, say, Google's search algorithm? Is it pure magic for them? if so, why are they content to be purely victims critical ideas which they make little attempt to understand?

6. Who invented the god who invented the laws of mathematics and physics? Why are rational questions like this actually unimportant to the spread of religions whose original doctrines (sometimes quite insightful) always become reduced to magical rituals for the mass of followers?

7. As individuals, and as a species, there has been and maybe always will be much that we cannot entirely understand. Why is magical explanation of the unknown always preferred by the majority to systematic scientific enquiry which gradually reduces that field of unknowns?

8. With knowledge which is already available, and resources which are already available, global poverty and mass suffering could be pretty well eliminated if that knowledge and those resources were deployed rationally. Instead we still have warring camps, a.k.a. nations, run by mafia oligarchies whose scientific understanding is no better than the magic-driven populations they control. Why is this?

9. Meetups which share 'spirituality', and meetups to eat or booze, always vastly outnumber meetups to explore ideas. Why is this so?

10. If you were asked to rationally govern a mostly magic-driven population, whose use of reasoning tools is limited to personal, short term gratification, how would you go about it.


Extra reading:

Stanton Peele (1982) "Love, Sex, Drugs and other Magical Solutions to Life" @ [synopsis only but raises interesting questions ..]

Anil Seth (2017) "How your brain constructs reality" @ Video, 17 minutes [highly recommended]
Leonard Pitts (2017) "Trump promises magical solutions" @

Valerie Strauss (2012) "Bribing students - another magical solution that doesn't work" @

Mark Lichtenstein (2017) "Why magic becomes popular" @

Greg Duerksen (n.d.) "The Dangers of Executive Magical Thinking" @

Matthew Hutson (2008) "Magical Thinking" @  [recommended]

Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


Magic is always popular? (c) Thor May 2018 return to Ddiscussion