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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #7
for summary read these 5 entries in order: orderly universe, Chain of Being, logical reasoning, causality, chaos theory
for summary read these 5 entries in order: magic, for entertainment vs. a worldview, parapyschology, pseudoscience, shamanism, positive thinking the power of
amulet -- a charm or ornament typically carrying a picture, symbol, or words which supposedly aids the wearer by bringing good luck or providing protection from evil spirits.
anachronism--the incorrect presentation of something in a particular time frame, when it actually should be placed in a different time frame. The two frames are typically separated by enough time (often centuries) so the mistake is obvious
astrology --the ancient practice of divination / fortune telling by making use of the supposed connection between the positions of the stars and planets at some time of interest (often the moment of a person’s birth) and human affairs (often the future fate of someone). Astrology is a pseudoscience (has no scientific basis).
causality–the belief that events don’t just happen randomly or by accident (accidentalism), but that their occurrence can be linked to something else: some force, the prior occurrence of some other event or state, or to a set of facts or laws. Timing is important, the supposed cause (force that acts, energy release, triggering event, etc) must precede or occur simultaneously with the observed effect (what it supposedly causes). Causality is a cornerstone of the foundation of classical physics. According to Newton’s second law, to change the state of motion of an object a force must act. In the subatomic world governed by quantum mechanics, with seemingly random events occurring, discussion of causality becomes more complicated. It seems that in the quantum world, with respect to the occurrence of individual events, causality must be abandoned!
Chain of Being–the historically important idea that life on Earth is organized in hierarchical or ladder fashion, with the lowest, most insignificant creature at the bottom and the highest, most perfect at the top. According to such progressive creationism as shaped by the book of Genesis, God's ultimate goal was the creation of Man, whose place in this scheme is at the top of the chain or ladder. This idea influenced Western science as late as the middle of the 19th century, but ultimately gave way as the modern theory of biological evolution developed. Its history can be traced back 2500 years to Aristotle. It was later added to by religious scholars to include belief that God's ultimate goal in His creation was Man. Linnaeus (1707-1789) sought to reveal God's plan by classifying plants and animals—in his 1737 book Systema Naturae Even after Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859, many persisted in depicting evolution as culminating in Man.
channel / spiritual conduit –a person (see medium), place, building or object that allows a person to communicate with a spiritual realm, metaphysical energy, or disembodied spirit. This can be extended to include processes / rituals—even use of drugs—involved in facilitating such communication. For some the conduit operates in an entirely metaphoric / symbolic sense, while others see it as functionally critical based on their understanding of key aspects of Reality.
chaos theory–can be understood on two levels: popular and technical. Popularly, chaos theory involves hidden patterns that underlie seemingly random events and suggest their interconnectedness. Technically it is the theory of non-linear systems whose behavior can be modeled by mathematical equations that can’t be explicitly solved–their solutions can only be studied by computer. In theory accurate predictions as to the future behavior of such systems can be made, but these solutions are only good if the initial state or conditions of the system are known to extraordinary accuracy. For some systems, a very small uncertainty in initial conditions can have very large future consequences. Thus if your initial modeling fails to account for "a butterfly flapping its wings in China," the result may be unexpected very rough weather in North America!
charisma -- an extraordinary power or personal magic. Max Weber described charisma as the power in an individual supposedly from a supernatural source -- something to be thought of as spiritual gift, grace, genius, or power of personality
concept–abstract generalized ideas and understanding that replace a set of sensory experiences and memories. Example: a very young child handles similar different objects, rectangular blocks, orange, beach ball, tennis ball, toy cars, globe, etc. and eventual-ly forms a concept of "roundness"–that some of the objects handled fit with, others don’t. The conceptualization process involves observing, abstracting, recalling memories, discriminating, categorizing, etc.
conceptual framework (or conceptual map)–an idealized way of making sense out of a complicated world which begins in early childhood with recognizing similarities and differences between objects and building concepts. The process continues with fitting certain concepts that belong together into conceptual schemes for understanding, then fitting many conceptual schemes together to make a conceptual framework one that gets constantly torn down, rebuilt, and refined over many years–a whole lifetime for some!
dharma--a concept central to the religions of India, symbolized by the wheel, it refers to the underlying principles / inherent order in nature and belief that it is one's duty to live in accordance with them
divination -- the practice or art of revealing hidden knowledge, especially the foretelling or predicting of future events
dreams--a series of thoughts, images or feelings --particularly of anxiety or aggression--that one experiences during sleep. While dreams have a long history--the Bible provides accounts of several seemingly prophetic ones--researchers are unsure as to how to explain them. Various scientific explanations have been offered: that dreams allow the brain to consolidate memories, consider thoughts / memories / feelings that would otherwise be repressed, aid creative thinking, anticipate future contingencies, etc. Vitalists postulate that dreams are one way spirits communicate.
empirical--based on observation or experience; see also empiricism
empiricism -- the belief that all knowledge comes from experience. As part of the foundation of science, it stresses that scientific knowledge ultimately should be based on observation and experiment.
Enlightenment, Age of—A period in Western European history spanning roughly two centuries that emphasized reason and evidence of the senses over the supernaturalism, faith, and religious authority. It grew out of Renaissance Humanism and the scientific revolution—the threshold of which many put at the year 1600. While one can argue that liberalism and democracy emerged out of it, one can also look back 2000 years earlier to ancient Greek science (the Ionian Enlightenment) and experiments with democracy.
enigmatic--puzzling, inexplicable, mysterious
enumerate --to count, to list in ordered fashion
feedback–information modifies the state of a system, changing it so that future system behavior changes. Learning provides a simple example, where the system involved can be, not just our knowledge but, our entire worldview. Here the most important lessons learned change our behavior the most. Voting in an election is another simple example of a feedback process at work. Feedback also has a place in technical devices: where information about the state of a hardware system (output) is fed back to the system input to adjust, regulate, or modify its behavior. Positive feedback reinforces input and can lead to exploding (or imploding) output. Negative feedback opposes input and can lead to stable behavior. Both can be present in complex systems. Technology-based examples include thermostats in heating / cooling systems, and elevator position / speed controls. Biology based feedback examples include blood sugar regulation in the body, populations of prey / predators in ecosystem, etc.
fetish -- an object thought to have magical powers, perhaps offering power or providing protection to those who believe in it. It can become an object of worship and blind devotion.
folklore -- the body of customs, stories, sayings, jokes, games, legends, oral history, myths, superstitions, etc that relate to the life and spirit of a particular population or group and make up the oral tradition of that culture.
higher (or hidden) dimensions--just as a tiny but intelligent creature confined to the flat surface of a huge two dimensional plane might have enormous difficulty conceiving of the existence of a third dimension, human beings living in a world characterized by three familiar spatial dimensions find it difficult to think about a fourth spatial dimension (or higher dimensions). Consider these questions. Where is a hypothetical fourth dimension? In what direction would you head to journey to it? Here’s a simple answer: establish the six directions identified by north, south, east, west, up, and down, then head in a direction that is perpendicular to (that is, makes a ninety degree angle with) each of these six directions! Theoretical physicists’ efforts to model the universe often involve additional dimensions, beginning with Einstein’s general relativity theory (see space / time continuum). Some current models (based on string theory) employ ten or eleven dimensions. Conceivably some or all of these higher dimensions could be confined or wrapped up in spatially tiny regions surrounding our three dimensional world.
homeopathy—a pseudoscientific alternative medical procedure based on the idea that the very substance that causes disease in healthy folks can be used to cure sick people of that disease when given in doses that are tremendously diluted. Critics point out that calculations show the dilutions—typically with water—are so extreme that not even one molecule of the supposedly active beneficial substance would be expected to be present in what the sick person receives!
hypothesis–in scientific problem solving, an educated conjecture or statement offered as a tentative explanation of data relevant to the problem being considered. A hypothesis can involve a model to be tested
ignorance, two types of–a distinction between types of ignorance: problems vs. mysteries (first made by linguist Noam Chomsky). A problem solving approach can be employed to better understand what we already know at least something about, whereas those things that are totally bewildering can be considered unfathomable mysteries that we can only stand in awe of. Whereas the scientific method focuses on problems, mysteries are the stuff of religion. A long-term goal of science is to steadily incorporate more phenomena once considered mysteries into its framework of understanding.
incantation -- the words, often chanted or recited, used as a charm or spell in magic practices or rituals
incubus -- a demon or evil spirit which can supposedly descend on people during sleep, causing nightmares and psychological trauma. (Originally, incubi and succubi were thought to be evil spirits who descended on women and men who were asleep for purposes of sexual intercourse.)
indigenous people–in 2004, the United Nations provided the following definition: "Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system." By 2020, the World Bank estimated there were 476 million indigenous people worldwide in over 90 countries
logical reasoning, use in math, science & engineering--such reasoning most notably involves use of deduction and induction. Deduction starts with axioms: unquestioned facts /assumptions / premises. It then applies rules and through a sequential process necessarily arrives at new facts / conclusions. It is a "top down" approach. In contrast, induction, in "bottom up" fashion, takes many related facts and generalizes them to arrive at a rule or rules. The former proceeds from wholes / more general to parts / more specific, whereas the latter moves in the opposite direction. Beginning with Euclidean geometry, much of mathematics developed in deductive fashion. In applied science and engineering, specific problems can be solved by a deductive process in which an accepted scientific theory is used to formulate a specific hypothesis to test / confirm. This can be rather mundane. Exciting scientific advances often result from an inductive process: from many observations, patterns are found, leading to hypotheses and ultimately, a more broadly applicable theory.
magic, for entertainment vs. a worldview -- in affluent Western countries people are entertained by magicians and they expect to be fooled by tricks and illusions, but this way of relating to magic is clearly not what is being considered in discussions of how magic fits into worldviews. In many cultures magic has more in common with religion -- or even science & technology -- than entertainment. One can argue that magic, religion and science all developed in response to the same basic human needs. These include 1) the need to make sense out of how nature works, gain some power or control over it, and appreciate how people fit into it, 2) the need to come to terms with the mystery of death, 3) the need for social, moral, and spiritual guidance as to how to behave, and solve problems that arise in daily life, and 4) the need to live in a world that is not so scary and unpredictable -- but more manageable, understandable, comfortable and amenable to humans.
magical thinking -- a stage of childhood development in which the child believes that his or her thoughts are the cause of the events seen happening , and in some adults with psychiatric disorders.
magicians, how they fool us-- Magic tricks often work by the magician’s use of misdirection: drawing the audience’s attention away from the essential element the trick depends on. They often use cognitive illusions and visual illusions. The former refer to mental lapses magicians exploit--including blindness to change, failure to see what is obvious, and willingness to assume one unrelated event causes another. The latter involve the magician exploiting how the human visual system works at the neuronal level in the brain’s visual cortex. ).
maleficium—a type of sorcery or witchcraft that includes magical acts intended to harm people or property
manifest--readily apparent, in plain sight, understandable
medium–a sensitive person who apparently perceives and communicates with the spirit world, or who acts as a channel for spirits to speak through direct voice. Whereas mental mediums are limited to receiving and transmitting messages, physical mediums can produce physical effects such as levitation or materialization
myths–stories about divine beings, heroic human figures, animals, and nature that can hold an important place in the worldview of a particular people by providing explanations for certain beliefs, practices, natural phenomena, etc. Myths are part of all sacred traditions. Creation myths, which attempt to explain how the world began, are especially popular
to the study of the occult and thus the pursuit of hidden knowledge. Occultism is to be distinguished from mysticism in that,
unlike the latter, the former is concerned with magic, alchemy,
astrology, numerology, strange rites, secret formulas, etc. and is
sometimes associated with malevolent supernatural
ontology--most generally this refers to the nature of existence or Reality; more specifically it can refer to the details in a description of Reality--say the concepts, categories, and connections between them as part of a framework to describe Reality
orderly universe--the belief, which can be traced back to Greeks such as Thales in the sixth century BC, that there is an order and organization to the universe due to its functioning in accordance with a small number of natural laws--laws which can conceivably be uncovered and understood by humans. Such a notion is diametrically opposed by the belief that the universe is unorganized, transient chaos whose workings can never be comprehended. Harvard historian of science Gerald Holton's term for the origin of belief in an orderly universe is "The Ionian Enchantment."
pagan--the term has two somewhat different meanings: 1) a person who believes
there are many gods (polytheist); 2)
one who enjoys sensual pleasures (hedonist) and has no religion
parapsychology -- the branch of psychology concerned with paranormal phenomena, that is, with phenomena which cannot currently be explained using the existing, generally accepted, scientific conceptual framework. Examples include those involving pre-cognition, extra-sensory perception, telekinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance, communicating with the dead, etc
physical laws—most basically one can point to Newton’s three laws (which govern motion and forces), Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, Maxwell’s equations (which govern electromagnetic phenomena), and the Laws of Thermodynamics—most important of which is the Law of Conservation of Energy—as the basis for understanding much of what goes on in the visible, macroscopic world. These laws—which were fully in place by the end of the nineteenth century—represent what is called “classical physics.” The twentieth century ushered in “modern physics” bringing important refinements / additions especially important in understanding the microscopic, atomic and subatomic realm. Most notably there were two key additions: 1) relativity—including Einstein's new theory of gravity—and 2) quantum mechanics —with applications to nuclear physics (sadly including nuclear bombs) and solid state physics— leading to technologies behind the digital, computer age.
positive thinking, the power of -- This phrase is the title of a 1952 best-selling book by Christian preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale. The basic idea behind his book--and behind similar routes to empowerment advocated by various New Age enthusiasts-- is that repeating good thoughts brings good things, while continually dwelling on negative thoughts can bring bad things. In short, people create their own reality by their thoughts. Many, Peale included, consider thoughts to be things. Some New Agers don't stop there, but connect whatever they are promoting with the mysteries of quantum physics in claiming that all matter is condensed thought. For others, similar positive thinking / visualization techniques--and belief that God wants you to have abundant wealth--serve as the basis for teaching others how to get rich. Coupling such "ask, believe, and receive" recipes with the idea that "you can control the world by what you think" methods provides the essence of numerous books about how to obtain wealth and power.
precognition–a type of extra-sensory perception or clairvoyance, in which a person supposedly receives information about an event or happening before it has actually taken place
pseudoscience-- something that seemingly has a scientific basis, but, upon closer investigation, does not. Examples of pseudoscience include beliefs in 1) horoscopes, astrology and that human personalities are shaped by stars in the zodiac, etc. 2) magical powers of crystals, 3) an ancient technically advanced civilization of Atlantis, and 4) extra-terrestrial beings in flying saucers are visiting Earth. Each of these -- and many other similar beliefs -- have been investigated using scientific methods and thoroughly debunked as lacking in truth, in useful application or both. Many pseudoscientific beliefs persist because 1) people uncritically believe in them without doing their own analysis of the merits; 2) many promoting such beliefs profit from doing so.
pseudoscience and conspiracism--in explaining why their hypotheses, theories, inventions or supporting data behind them are not accepted by the scientific community, pseudoscientists have been known to allege that others (scientists, corporate or government officials, etc) have engaged in conspiracies to suppress them
quantum entanglement—of subatomic particles like electrons and photons. Quantum mechanics long predicted that two entangled particles—even if separated by vast (many light years!) distances would behave as one particle if perturbed—and do so instantaneously! Meaning if one was disturbed in a way that a property (say spin) was changed, the other would instantaneously be similarly disturbed. In the 1930s Einstein ridiculed this prediction (which was difficult to reconcile with both common sense and his relativity theory!) , but it has not only has been physically demonstrated in recent decades, but is now being put to work in the development of quantum computers.
quantum mechanics -- a branch of physics, developed in the first half of the 20th century, dealing with motion and interactions of matter on very small scales (typically atomic or subatomic). Unlike the visible, large scale realm of classical physics -- where predicted future behavior of individual particles involves deterministic certainties -- predicting the behavior of discrete particles in the quantum realm involves probabilities not certainties.
quantum mechanics & consciousness--a minority of scientists believe that explaining consciousness necessarily involves use of quantum mechanics. The way it is used range from the esteemed mathematical physicist Roger Penrose's idea that consciousness arises from quantum effects in the microtubular structures inside cells, to a few fringe scientists belief that consciousness is coherent light related to "biophoton" emission, to New Age enthusiasts' notion that living consciousness resides in the quantum (vacuum) field and that individual human consciousness is both part of and has access to information stored in this all-pervading collective consciousness. Some of the latter relate consciousness to a "life force" and see an individual's consciousness as surviving his or her death.
quantum mechanics & wholeness--what Einstein scoffed at as "spooky action at a distance" and today is concisely summarized in the ER = EPR equation, suggests that hypothetical wormhole connections in the fabric of space-time and entanglement are related. Some connect this with what quantum physicist David Bohm called the implicate order--all of which bolsters the viewpoint that the separation in space and time we perceive in the explicate order is not the Ultimate Reality.
quantum quackery--scientific skeptics have used this term in dismissing New Age enthusiasts ongoing attempts to connect the microscopic subatomic realm of quantum physics with human consciousness and thought. Caltech Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell Mann's term was "quantum flapdoodle"--an apparent reference to what he saw as the futile hand waving and doodling of New Agers (including a few reputable scientists who he felt should know better!) in their attempts to make connections where no evidence or possible mechanisms exist for making them. Critics less gifted in finding clever words have simply charged promoters of what they consider to be pseudoscientific nonsense as urging others to believe in magic.
random--happening in no particular order, but rather in haphazard seemingly by chance fashion without purpose or discernable pattern
reductionism -- the philosophical belief that understanding a complex phenomenon, system, structure, organism, etc. (or solving a complicated problem) is best done by breaking it into smaller, more manageable parts (problems), and studying those parts (or first solving those smaller problems). Often accompanying a reductionistic approach to understanding is the belief that the whole is nothing more than the sum of the parts. Reductionism is the opposite of wholism (holism).
sacrifice–giving up something precious or important as offering to honor or placate a god, deity.
shamanism--An ancient form of mind / body healing that believes in the ultimate connectedness of all things and employs altered states of consciousness. Shamanism is a sort of synthesis of mysticism and magic worldview themes. Shamans attempt to heal by restoring a person's balance with the natural surroundings and all life.
shape shifting–the ability of a being to become something else, part of some magical worldviews.
sorcery -- the use of power gained by summoning up evil spirits, who are called upon to control something or provide assistance. Sorcery is often used for purposes of divining the future.
spirituality–narrowly defined as the quality or state of being spiritual–which relates to matters pertaining to vital spirit or soul–or more broadly as: 1) "the process and result of nurturing one's soul and developing one's spiritual life" (David N. Elkins), and 2) "one's spirituality is the range of one's emotional relationships to those questions that cannot be answered..."like 'What happens when you die?'"(Jaron Lanier). Some confine their spirituality to the boundaries provided by traditional religion; others look else-where to meet spiritual needs. Some link spirituality to feeling connected to something bigger. 3) In recent years Project Worldview has begun promoting a new way of metaphorically looking at spirituality—as the domain at the intersection of what both our heads and our hearts tell us is fundamentally important.
testability–refers to the idea that for a statement or hypothesis to be considered scientifically acceptable it must be testable–that is, conceivably it could be shown to be false. Example: consider two similar statements: 1) the entire universe is permeated with an undetectable pure substance: the quintessence; 2) all space is permeated by a substance that is at absolute rest (meaning all motion is relative to it): the ether. The first is not a scientific statement because it is not testable. The second statement was most notably tested in the famous Michelson-Morley Experiment of 1887
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