Physics and Chemistry and Mystical Thinking

The poor CLAHRC WM Director encounters mystical types who believe in all manner of paranormal and supernatural phenomena. Sometimes, such people are borne to high positions in society. Do they have two mind-sets; being able to understand maths, physics and biology, and also believing in mystical things? Or are the two ways of thinking broadly incompatible? The latter according to Lindeman and Svedholm-Häkkinen.[1] In an interesting article they correlate mathematical ability and knowledge of biology and physics with results of a supernatural belief scale – yes one does exist. Sure enough, the better a person’s knowledge of the physical world, the lower their belief in the supernatural. Which way round cause and effect is working is not entirely clear. But ancient people who know no physics and chemistry tend to have strong supernatural beliefs, so the CLAHRC WM Director hypothesises that education really does dispel nonsense thinking.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Lindeman M, & Svedholm-Häkkinen AM. Does Poor Understanding of Physical World Predict Religious and Paranormal Beliefs? Appl Cognit Psychol. 2016; 30: 736-42.

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