Supernatural and Paranormal Beliefs Linked to Worse Comprehension of the Natural World

Recent research out of the University of Helsinki notes that those with supernatural belief systems understand the world less than those without them. The study notes that those with supernatural or paranormal beliefs comprehend the material world less, and instead explain events in terms of supernatural entities and paranormal activities.

Supernatural in this context means something beyond the natural, whether entities, energies, or forces. Paranormal means something occurring without scientific explanation. In short, these are related ideas in opposition to the natural and that which can be explained by science, or occurrences that are describable by science in principle.

“In the results, it was found that religious people usually act on instinct over critical or analytical thinking,” Mo4ch News said. Put another way, the basis of the relationship between critical thinking and supernatural/paranormal beliefs is negative whilst the relation between critical thinking and naturalistic beliefs is positive.

The study took 258 people of Finnish origin and asked them to what extent they believed in an “all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God” before being asked about their beliefs in what we might term paranormal events, such as ghosts and telepathy. Their answers were then matched with results on analytical and critical thinking tasks.

According to RedOrbit ‘The researchers found that people who believed in an all-powerful, omniscient deity, as well as those who believed in the supernatural, were comparable to those with autism spectrum disorders in that they struggled to understand the realities of the world in which they lived.’

In further detail, the original research paper, by Marjaana Lindeman, Annika M. Svedholm-Häkkinen, and Tapani Riekki, entitled Skepticism: Genuine unbelief or implicit beliefs in the supernatural(2016), highlighted three main points and had three studies.

For the highlights, first, an examination of explicit and implicit religious and non-religious supernatural beliefs. Second, the level of skeptic implicit supernatural beliefs. Third, the “non-analytic skeptics” supported “confusions” that might predispose individuals to various supernaturalistic beliefs.

According to the outline of the study:

‘Study 1 had 57 subject read a religious and a naturalistic story about death. Study 2 looked into the relations between religious and non-religious paranormal beliefs and and implicit views on the imaginary/real status of religious and supernatural phenomena. Study 3 had 63 subjects researched under speeded and non-speeded conditions. The third study was to parse subjects’ “supernatural beliefs and ontological confusions” in those tests based on rapidity of responses.’

“The results indicate that skeptics overall do not hold implicit supernatural beliefs,” Lindeman et al said, “but that non-analytically thinking skeptics may, under supporting conditions, be prone to biases that predispose to supernatural beliefs.”

Russia Today reported that scientific “explanations for physical and biological things such as flowers, volcanoes and wind were less likely to be understood by those with religious or supernatural beliefs.”
Our extrapolation from the findings of the study is that one’s way of knowing the world evolved from supernatural, paranormal, or religious beliefs to more critically grounded naturalistic beliefs. To us, the reports and the research, even though only one study, seem to indicate preliminary indications for the development of critical thinking marked by the transition from supernatural to natural species with one identity.

About Benedict Nicholson 17 Articles
Benedict is an interviewer, podcast leader, and is political writer and commentator. Benedict is also editor-at-large for Conatus News.

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