ALS Topic 11 -
Magic is always popular
Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime
Seminar, 23 June 2018
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.
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
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?
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?
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
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.
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" @
1. articles at
legacy site: http://thormay.net