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“Magical Thinking: Inherently Human,” a lecture by Dr. Phil Stevens

Friday, March 29
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Center for Inquiry – Transnational
1310 Sweet Home Road
Amherst, New York 14228 United States

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Organized by:
Center for Inquiry Western New York


photo of Dr. Phillips Stevens
Dr. Phillips Stevens will be speaking at CFI on March 29.

Magic is one of the most loaded terms in the English language. In anthropology, it means a system of beliefs in mystical causation (popularly called, unfortunately, “superstition”), which operates according to some or all of six fundamental principles. Ethnology shows that these principles are absolutely universal in human thinking. Dr. Stevens argues that they are rooted in human evolutionary biology; therefore magical thinking is natural. A first job of the development of modern science was to counter magical thinking.

Phillips Stevens Jr., PhD, recently retired after forty-eight years in the Anthropology Department at UB. He received his BA in English from Yale in 1963, then went to Nigeria with the Peace Corps to teach English and work with the Nigerian government’s Department of Antiquities to document, repair, and protect the famous Stone Images of Esié (Ess ee yéh). Those experiences brought him into anthropology, and he entered the graduate program at Northwestern University. He conducted dissertation research in different areas of Nigeria from 1969–1971 and received his PhD in 1973. He has conducted subsequent anthropological research in West Africa and the Caribbean. He is the author of many publications in cultural anthropology and African studies, and he is the recipient of two awards for excellence in teaching.  One of his most popular courses at UB was in the anthropology of Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft;  he is right now writing a book on that topic. He lectures frequently to community groups on subjects of current concern. His most recent honor came on December 1, 2012, when he received an honorary chieftaincy title from the king of Esie, in recognition of his work there. Stevens has been a long-time member of CFI and a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer.

This event is free to CFI members and $5 for the public. Refreshments will be served.

This talk is part of a series of monthly educational lectures hosted by CFI Western New York. The Center for Inquiry’s mission is to foster a secular society based on reason, science, and freedom of inquiry. We are a community group in Western New York made up of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, skeptics, and other non-religious folks. We do our best to make a positive difference in the lives of secular and scientific-minded people and show that you don’t have to believe in a god to be good or to do good in the world. We have monthly educational lectures (about topics related to science and secularism) up in Amherst, NY, and social events (potlucks, cafe meetups, game nights, etc.) around the year.