Critical Thinking – Protecting Wicca from Psuedoscience

critical-thinkingPseudoscience are claims, beliefs or practices that seem to be scientific but that, in fact, have no scientific basis.     

Wicca is flushed with pseudoscience.  Take for example the overuse of terms like “energy” and “vibration” which are used to give scientific validation of many concepts that are far removed from science.  Another can seen is in the numbers of metaphysical items that make scientific claims but have no or questionable scientific evidence.  

How to Identify Pseudoscience

Psychologists Rodney Schmaltz and Scott Lilienfeld have identified seven clear signs of pseudoscience:

  1. The use of psychobabble – words that sound scientific and professional but are used incorrectly, or in a misleading manner.
  2. A substantial reliance on unreliable or unscientific evidence.
  3. Extraordinary claims in the absence of extraordinary evidence.
  4. Claims which cannot be proven false such as unverifiable personal gnosis (UPG)
  5. Claims that counter established scientific facts.
  6. Absence of adequate peer review.
  7. Claims that are repeated despite being refuted.

To illustrate this problem, consider the following outrageous story.  Lets assume that Dimples Puddlefairy puts green Jello on his head and his headache goes away. To pseudoscience, this means green Jello cures headaches. Even worse, this pseudoscience might be compounded to include the words energy, vibration, color correspondences, chakra correspondences, herbal correspondences, etc. What about its wiggly-jiggly properties? What about the many other things that were going on: the moon was full, a bird flew overhead, the window was open, Joe had on his red shirt? Should we accept the subjective validation that Jello was the result of the cure?

Critical Thinking – An Alternative to Pseudoscience

To combat pseudoscience, I am a firm proponent that Wiccans need to reclaim their beliefs with critical thinking.

Much of our everyday thinking is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced.   Critical thinking, on the other hand, is when you improve the quality your thinking by understanding how you think and impose intellectual standards upon what you think. Being skeptical, double checking facts, looking at references…those are things people have never done well. 

The goal of critical thinking is to regain control of our thinking and have self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.  It is the mindful use of rigorous standards and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

Conclusion

Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being negatively critical of other people. Critical thinking is you being an effective “critic” of your own thinking. And to become an effective critic of your thinking, you need to understand and be aware of your thinking.

Wicca needs those who can think critically to overcome biases and prejudice.  Without thinking critically, you’re only looking at the surface of things. When you come across a statement you heard at the local metaphysical fair, do you accept it at face value?  Do not stop looking deeper?  Do you accept some people’s statements and not others? Do you recognize your biases? Does your information have depth, breadth, significance, relevance, clarity, accuracy, and fairness? Can you find any logical fallacies?

Faith is the “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” To believe something “on faith” means to believe something “without question.”  Wicca is not a faith-based religion.   Critical thinking is not about challenging the conclusions or beliefs that anyone has within the Wiccan community.  It is about taking ownership of your own conclusions or beliefs in order to reclaim them.

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About Sam Shryock

I am a resident of Kansas City metro area and have practiced Pagan Spirituality since 2007. I am a third-degree Wiccan with the Correllian-Nativist tradition, the local coordinator for Kansas City Pagan Pride Day, and the host of the monthly Kansas Coffee Coven. I currently work full-time in the Computer Industry. I am a retired Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel and have a Masters Degree in Computer Resource and Information Management. Most importantly I am a proud husband, father, and grandfather.
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