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Impediments to Cogent Reasoning - 1451
Superstition and Pseudoscience
1. Superstition is defined as:
a) beliefs or practices resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, or trust in magic or chance.
b) an irrational, abject attitude toward nature and the unknown.
c) any belief that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is considered true and rational; esp., such a belief in omens, the supernatural, etc.
(Sometimes people call it stupidstition)
2. Most superstitions are originally based upon a small amount of evidence or fact. Case in point: The old Romans thought that a person's health changed every seven years. They also thought that a mirror reflected a person's health, good or bad. It was a twist on this combination that gave us the superstitious notion that a broken mirror foretold seven years of bad luck. so, they rigged up the mirror myth to lay the blame outside themselves in case anything went wrong. (It is true that a person's cells regenerate every seven years).
3. What is the appeal of superstition to humans? Perhaps it helps some to think they control the uncontrollable. Some may believe it makes life more colorful (rationality can get boring!). Perhaps it is easier to believe in something that has insufficient evidence, rather than have to suspend belief or struggle to use good reasoning. Sometimes it's hard to face unpleasant truths or fear.
4. Many superstitions are passed down by parents or grandparents. Some involve ethnic customs. Sometimes a superstition becomes cool, such as astrology ('What's your sign' was commonly heard during my youth at the beginning of a possible courtship. If you were born under the wrong sign, then the girl lost interest immediately..haha)
5. The biggest problem with superstition is that people ignore or neglect the instances when the superstition fails or doesn't work. For example: if a person believes that a black cat crossing their path is an omen of bad luck for that day, and the person actually has a good day, that person will unconsciously forget the superstition. But if that person had a bad day then they will point to the black cat episode as the cause of it.
6. Some common superstitions thought to cause bad luck:
a) Friday the 13th
b) Opening an umbrella inside of a house
c) Walking on the crack on the sidewalk
d) Walking underneath a ladder
e) Cutting your fingernails on Fridays (common to the 19th century)
7. Some common superstitions thought to cause good luck:
b) Four leaf clover
c) Rabbit's foot
8. A common superstition to prevent bad luck is to knock on wood. The "knock on wood" superstition is alleged to have originated in the practice of touching wood on the occasion of good fortune in gratitude to Christ who is associated with a wooden cross
9. Some superstitions have terrible consequences as depicted in the book on page 125. In short, Korean women born in the year of the white horse, which comes every 60 years, are believed to be particularly smart, active, impatient, and argumentative. So, many Korean men shy away from marriage to women born in such a year. The last year of the white horse was 1990, and lots of pregnant women consulted obstetricians to find out if they were carrying female fetuses. Hence, abortions of female fetuses reached epidemic proportions in Korea in 1990.
10. Athletes are thought to be very superstitious, especially baseball players. Baseball is a slow game and players say superstitions are something you do when you're waiting to help fill the time. In fact, many baseball players say they are proud of being superstitious. The nostalgia and tradition surrounding the game may also contribute to the perpetuation of superstitions. If a player sees some odd habit working for another player, he may copy the action. But baseball players may be no more superstitious than the general public. Studies have found 3/4 of college baseball players identified themselves as superstitious, but 3/4 of the entire student body did likewise. But what some may consider superstitions may be really just rituals that the players use to prepare themselves for a game. But rituals can evolve into superstition, especially if they work.
11. Iceland is geologically very young, constantly being reshaped by the forces of volcanic fire and ice, sparsely populated, and spectacularly and strangely beautiful. It is almost completely unspoilt and unpolluted. Therefore, many people are not surprised at the high percentage of Icelanders – one of the most highly educated and technically sophisticated people in the world – who believe in the existence of the nature spirits who have long thrived in such an environment. Fifty-three percent of the population either believe in, or do not deny, their existence. The forms these inhabitants of the spirit world take are many. Some are malevolent, such as afturganga, zombies who return after death in an attempt to carry others away with them. Some are lovely, like the light-faeries who look like angels, or the huge and radiant mountain spirits, who may be several meters tall. But perhaps the most interesting are the huldufolk and the trolls. Huldufolk means "hidden people" and one tale of their origins concerns Eve, the mother of human creation. Of all the spirit world, huldufolk are the most like humans, except they are inevitably more beautiful, talented, and charming. They interact with humans when and where they wish to. They are generally benign, but terrible things have occurred to those who have wantonly disturbed or destroyed their dwellings, from huge cost overruns on construction sites to accidents and even death.
11. Karma - In Hindu belief where the term originated, it is the idea that the good and evil a person does will return either in this life or in a later one. Among Pagans, the theory is that whatever negative or positive energies one sends out will come back to the sender in like kind.
12. Cross your fingers - An old superstition says that if you cross your fingers (usually two fingers of the same hand) it will bring good luck. Example: "I don't know what I will get for my birthday, but I am crossing my fingers that it will be a bicycle."
You cross your fingers when you try to make something happen by wishing that it will happen. A common saying: "Let's cross our fingers and hope for the best." Example: "Good luck on your test tomorrow. We'll be crossing our fingers for you!" Reply: "Thanks."
The meaning of don't cross your fingers changes a bit. It means don't hope too much for what you want to happen, because there is a strong chance that it might not happen. It means that you should not have expectations that are too high. Example: "It would be great if our team won today, but don't cross your fingers." Example: "We are hoping that John will get accepted to medical school, but we are not crossing our fingers."
13. The Full Moon: It is said that Full Moons on any night will cause irrational and fevered behavior in many individuals. Many emergancy workers in hospitals will tell you that all the loonies come out on full moon nights. Human sanity is popularly supposed to be affected by the phases of the moon, which is the origin of the word 'lunatic'.
1. A pseudoscience, meaning false science, is a system of superstitious beliefs. These beliefs are based upon insufficient evidence. But they endure despite their apparent failure because of wishful thinking and self-deception. People are attracted to pseudosciences because they contain comforting and optimistic beliefs.
2. A pseudoscience is an established body of knowledge which masquerades as science in an attempt to claim a legitimacy which it would not otherwise be able to achieve on its own terms; it is often known as fringe- or alternative science. The most important of its defects is usually the lack of the carefully controlled and thoughtfully interpreted experiments which provide the foundation of the natural sciences and which contribute to their advancement.
3. Astrology is probably the most popular pseudoscience. Millions of people read their daily horoscopes for fun, although a minority of people actually live their lives based on what their horoscope predicts (for ex: Nancy Reagan).
4. List of common pseudosciences:
a) astrology - is any of several traditions or systems in which knowledge of the apparent positions of celestial bodies is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence on earth.
I once had a computer program output my astrological chart, including sun, moon, and planet signs. I asked a student friend of mine, who said he was an expert on astrology, to interpret my chart. Using a huge book on interpreting astrological charts, he wrote up a five page report that amazingly described my personal traits with an almost 100% accuracy. Reflecting on this later, I realized that the student already knew me quite well, which greatly diluted the strength of his report. It would have been better if I had had an expert, who didn't know me, analyze my chart.
b) numerology - An pseudoscience that offers insight into the personality by assigning numeric values to names and birth dates, calculating numerological values and then interpreting the results.
c) psychic healing - the healing of one person by another, when this is brought about by purely mental means, ie, without the use of any known mechanical, chemical or energetic means.
d) parapsychology - the study of the evidence for psychological phenomena, such as telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis, that are inexplicable of science.
e) seances - the gathering of a group of individuals for the purpose of communicating with the ghost of the dead.
f) fortune telling - the practice of predicting the future, usually of an individual, through seemingly mystical or supernatural means and often for commercial gain. It often conflates with the religious practice known as divination.
g) tarot cards - a system of symbolic images on cards. Whatever their original significance, the cards have been used since they first surfaced as much for divinatory purposes as for trick-taking card games. Tarot is currently also used as tool for reflection on one's personal life, as well as an aid to meditation. Tarot is usually embodied in a deck of 78 cards, similar to a set of playing cards.
i) intelligent design - The idea that an intelligent designer played a role in some aspect of the evolution of life on earth, usually the origin of life itself. Generally, a thinly disguised version of scientific creationism. Intelligent Design (or ID) is a highly controversial claim holding that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent designer, rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. Most ID advocates state that their focus is on detecting evidence of design in nature, without regard to who or what the designer might be.
Superstition and Pseudoscience on the Internet
wikipedia on Pseudoscience
The Superstition Behind Friday the 13th
More on Superstitions