MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

There has been plenty of research into the factors that determine the usage of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Yet, so far, not a single truly powerful predictor has been identified. The aim of this study was therefore to identify the most important predictors of the use and approval of CAM. The researchers performed a canonical correlation analysis on all 3480 records from the 2012 German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) with the lifetime use and opinion of SCAM as the dependent variables.

Approval of paranormal practices such as fortune-telling, dowsing or spiritualism explained 32% of the variance in the dependent canonical variate “approval of SCAM”, while sociodemographic variables explained only 2%. Experience with paranormal practices explained 17% of the variance in the dependent canonical variate “experience with SCAM”, and sociodemographic variables explained 10% of the variance. Traditional religiosity, attitudes towards science and post-materialist values showed no relevant correlations with the dependent canonical variates.

The authors concluded that paranormal beliefs and related measures are the most important known predictors of the use and approval of SCAM. Experience with paranormal practices not only indicates paranormal beliefs but also explains experience with SCAM that cannot be explained by approval of SCAM. Female gender and higher socioeconomic status predict experience with SCAM without predicting approval of SCAM, but their influence should not be overstated.

Let’s not worry for the moment about the fact that most of the methods employed here to quantify the variables in question were not adequately validated. Let’s instead just assume that the reported findings are reliable and real. In this case, we must ask what do these correlations mean?

The authors seem to think that their results are quite extraordinary and require elaborate explanations. I find the findings utterly unsurprising and think they are almost self-explanatory: SCAM use/approval and the belief in the paranormal are linked because, to a very large degree, SCAM is part of the paranormal. The two are associated via a common denominator: lack of rationality and critical thinking.

10 Responses to Paranormal beliefs strongly predict the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)

  • It dovetails with research that showed atheists are more intelligent than the religious; again reasonably self-evident, except to those who are not adequately equipped.

    The proponents of SCAM always write with great authority about their choice of the nebulous, yet no very little about others but are loath to criticise as they seem to realise undermining another does the same to theirs.

    They also do not have the doubt and self-doubt typical of the intelligent, critical-thinking, realists. This is evident in the drivel written here by chiros, totally devoid of any awareness of how baseless their ramblings are.

    • @ Frank,
      quote:”(…) research that showed atheists are more intelligent than the religious (…)”

      I have not come across this research and I doubt that this statement is necessarily true, because as many examples show, intelligent people are also very good at rationalizing their (irrational) believes.
      Could you provide a reference for your statement?

    • Frank,

      It dovetails with research that showed atheists are more intelligent than the religious

      I don’t know of any research that has shown this. Could you provide a reference?

      again reasonably self-evident

      I think you will find that it is self-evident to many religious people that there is a god; this is called faith.

      The term “reasonably self-evident” is an oxymoron. If something is self-evident then reason is not required to justify it. A lot of things that are regarded as self-evident do not, however, stand up to careful scrutiny.

      • See Are religious people really less smart, on average, than atheists? by Emma Young, The British
        Psychological Society Research Digest, 2018-01-26
        https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/01/26/are-religious-people-really-less-smart-on-average-than-atheists/

        • Hmm…

          The study you reference doesn’t seem to be very rigorous, particularly as it used a self-selected group of subjects, which immediately introduces all sorts of bias. I am also doubtful about their recommendation at the end of cognitive training for the religious.

          • @ Pete Attkins,
            thanks for the link.

            @Dr. Money-Kyrle,
            you might have overlooked the second ref. mentioned in the link provided by Pete, which (by reading just the abstract and the conclusion) seems to be a quite solid meta-analyses (published in a rather high-impact journal), indicating that indeed there is a negative association between intelligence and religiosity.

            https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1088868313497266

            I still would like to emphasize that even “the most intelligent person on earth” would certainly believe in one (or more) gods, if he/she had been indoctrinated as a child to belive and since then was not provided access to modern-day knowledge and the concept of scientific evidence.

            I also might add that even if it was true that on average, atheists are more intelligent than religious people, this information is of very limited (if any) practical value imo.

          • Jashak,

            You are right, I didn’t follow the second link with to the meta-analysis. I do, however, agree with you that the question is of little practical value, and I can’t say that it is one which particularly interests me. It seems to me rather like the studies looking into differences in various cognitive abilities between men and women, where, even if there is a discernable difference in the mean, there is so much overlap that it isn’t very meaningful.

            I would, however, like to recommend the film “The Two Popes”, a biographical drama starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Benedict XVI and the future Pope Francis and the unlikely friendship which developed when they met. It is available on Netflix and is quite gripping, not least for its glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors at the vatican.

          • Agreed, Dr. Money-Kyrle.
            I once heard a smart person say that the only thing that the Intelligence Quotient tells you is how skilled a person is in taking IQ-tests…
            🙂

            Thanks for the film tip!

      • Jules,
        “I don’t know of any research that has shown this.”
        There is a lot you don’t know, which may be a surprise to you.

        “Could you provide a reference?”
        Thanks Pete, though it wouldn’t have been too hard for Jules to type a few words in to a search engine.

        “I think you will find that it is self-evident to many religious people that there is a god; this is called faith.”
        Self-evident of the existence of a genocidal celestial fairy? Do tell, Jules, how you came up with this cracker?

        “The term “reasonably self-evident” is an oxymoron. If something is self-evident then reason is not required to justify it. A lot of things that are regarded as self-evident do not, however, stand up to careful scrutiny.”

        For someone who, seemingly, takes great pride in their command of language, you appear to have a lack of understanding of context. My earlier description of you as sanctimonious, smug, and supercilious now looks overshadowed by extreme vanity.

  • If I could design such a survey it would be this:
    1. How often do you think about quantum physics: frequently / seldom
    2. Are you a physicist: Yes / No

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