Suppose you don't have the time or money to do a big scientific study to find out if witchcraft, or prayer or belief in alien presences works better at fixing some human problem than doing nothing, or than doing something recommended by modern science.
Well, lucky ducky, you don't actually have to do that study, because it has already been done
. All of human history has been, basically, a gigantic longitudinal controlled study
of the effects of magic, magick, prayer, rituals, incantations, herbs, mentalism, astrology, prophecies, spiritualism, telepathy, telekinesis, psychics, gods, ghosts, fairies, demons, elves, sacred books, lucky charms, alien presences, and mystical woo woo of every imaginable kind. And what has been the result of this study? Zilch.
How do we know that magical woo woo does not work as advertised? Because of this: in every single situation where people have only magical woo woo to help them, it fails miserably when compared to situations where people have modern science--with or without woo. Magical woo woo "works" exactly as well as doing nothing at all. Sprinkling fairy dust on children makes them fly as well as not sprinkling fairy dust does.
In other words, magical woo woo is worthless.
And it did not fail because, as modern woo pushers say, people did not sincerely believe, or did not pray in the right way or pray hard enough, or offer the right spell to the correct deity. People have been sincerely, desperately believing, praying in every possible way, to every imaginable being in every culture, in every era for thousands of years.
And it has failed to deliver for all of those thousands of years. It has only been in the past few centuries that people have had the ability to try anything else. People applying all kinds of magical woo woo suffered and died in large numbers from conditions that are easily prevented or treated and cured by modern science.
The one thing we owe to magical woo woo is this: the very first things that the scientific method was applied to was to try to figure out how to make the mystical woo woo work at all or work better. Science began with investigations into magic.
Showing that magic did not work was the biggest disappointment of early scientific research. However what people did discover eventually changed the entire world: a powerful, almost foolproof method for figuring out what did work, and for figuring out how to tell what was real.
People spent countless hours trying to turn ordinary metals into gold, which led nowhere, except to the foundations of modern chemistry. Same thing with various magical herbs and potions--the scientific method identifies those that are useless or harmful. The ones that work become legitimate medicine with standard doses, expected results, warnings about side effects, etc.
Nowadays, many people who still believe in this stuff say things like, "Scientists won't investigate [their preferred form of woo woo] because of [prejudice or ignorance or demons or brainwashing or the government or the medical establishment or the media or being paid off by the pharmaceutical companies, take your pick]. But that is not the case at all.
None of these reasons can account for the fact that, if the woo woo really worked, the scientists who discovered it would get enormous prestige and lots of prizes, the first government that was able to apply this information would have a huge advantage in the world, and the businesses would be only too happy to package, bottle, synthesize and market to all of us.
The reason that science turned away from spending lots of time investigating magical woo is not jealousy or unfounded prejudice against witchcraft or magic. It's very simple: none of it worked as advertised
. When you approach the magical process with a completely open mind, not assuming anything about it, use good controls, make careful observations, measure all the results (not just the ones you like) and tally up the outcomes, you get nothing.
Can you imagine how much people would be willing to pay for a real working love spell or potion
? Combine all that people currently spend on attracting the right person: makeup, clothes, shoes, perfume, cologne, deodorant, workout videos and classes, pushup bras, hair dye, dating services, cover charges, drinks, dinners out, and on and on.
Millions of dollars and thousands of hours wasted, if all a person really needs is a few bucks worth of candles, some flower petals and a poem chanted by a witch.