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What made me surprised in recent days is this question by several people: What is the science behind Indian superstitions?

Science behind superstitions?! The words are oxymoronic! Why?

An Oxymoron is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. And science and superstition are contradictory in nature!

 While having a superstition, you believe something just based on your perception and feelings about it without any evidence. When you fear something and don't have confidence in yourself to handle it by yourself, you take some sort of external emotional support by following a superstition. There need not be any proof that it works. If following a superstition works in some cases, it just might be a chance. 

We don’t blindly believe anything in science. We question things over and over again and try to falsify our theories and understanding. Only when what we think is true passes out with flying colours several times without any exceptions, it becomes a provisional fact, waiting to meet someone who can ‘improve’ on it.

You need not believe anything in science and therefore need not fear it in any way. Moreover, by providing knowledge about something, it removes your fear and you gain natural confidence in the process. If you try something with full knowledge and confidence, you will succeed most of the time.

A baseless belief like superstition and science work in completely opposite ways.

Oh, yes, some people try to authenticate their irrational beliefs using 'made up science'. This becomes pseudo-science. But man on the street doesn't know the difference between real science and pseudo-science. Therefore, he thinks there is science behind superstitions.

Read here more about it in detail: Science's rules are unyielding, they will not be bent in any way fo...

When I told people the above things they asked me this question:

Several people will have superstitions. Especially the elders. How can we deal with them?

How can we respect our elders without respecting their baseless beliefs? Isn't disrespecting their beliefs means disrespecting the people themselves?

My reply: Everybody has his or her own right to believe in what they think is right for them. Right? But...there is an exception...

This right exists only till it doesn't do any harm to others around. The moment we realize some harm is being done because of these baseless beliefs, we have to negate them, fight them and try to eradicate them. 

The health of a society as a whole is more important than an individual's right to have his or her beliefs.

I will now tell you a real story to underline this point of mine.

Recently while I was travelling with my aunt and uncle in a car, we found grey pumpkins on the way and my aunt wanted to buy one and asked the driver to stop the car..

"Do you want to prepare 'fryums' with it?" I asked her.

"No. I want to hang it in front of my house. The old one has become black because of peoples' nazar', she replied.

Before I opened my mouth, she immediately added after seeing the expression on my face, "There is no need to criticize me. My beliefs are mine. You have to respect them if you want to respect me".

My aunt very well knows I don't believe in such superstitions. So she tried to put a brake on my lecture on them.

I respect my aunt as she is older than me, loves me and looks after me. But that doesn't make me respect her beliefs. Why? Because her baseless beliefs are harming the societies we live in! How?

She goes and tells everybody around that 'Nazar' (Buri nazar in Hindi/Urdu, evil eyes, looks, views in English, 'disti' in Telugu) can cause harm and therefore each and every person should use grey pumpkins to neutralize the effect of 'Nazar'. Okay, if that gives them some sort of satisfaction, we have no right to say people cannot follow what they believe in. But when she spread this superstition, everybody around started believing in it. So all her neighbours started using grey pumpkins too. These pumpkins, after sometime, became black, not because of 'nazar' but because of fungal spores.

What is worse is these spores come out of the pumpkin and spread all over the place whenever a breeze brushes it causing allergies in people. Imagine a whole neighbourhood infested with these spores spreading asthma in the vulnerable! How can I respect such a thing?!

No, I cannot respect my aunt's beliefs. I respect her and her right to have such beliefs to make her mind remain calm with a belief that a grey pumpkin can remove 'nazar' and protect her and her family. But it is causing harm to the society we live in! Therefore, I have every right to criticize, educate and remove these misconceptions and baseless beliefs. That doesn’t make me disrespect my aunt. I am only trying to protect her and other people with my ‘disrespect’!

Therefore, I started my lecture…

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