Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

In my dealings with people around the world, I have noticed that majority of people - irrespective of their nationality, age, education, gender, social status have baseless beliefs. Despite knowing that it is irrational, several of these human beings follow them  to get 'emotional satisfaction' by doing so. Some do it out of fear for the unknown. These things guide them in each and every aspect of day to day life. Superstitious rituals might give them some sort of mental relief and boost their self-confidence with false sense of hope and control over things but in the long run they cause more harm than good.

Superstition means a belief that is not based on reason or knowledge  and usually based on ignorance or fear. When people are gripped in the fear of uncertainty or feel extremely helpless because they have no sense of control over events, they tend to rely on superstitions because these, they think, can give some sort of reassurance     without realizing that it is a false one.

Why superstitions arise in the first place in peoples' lives? According to some observations:

Superstition is very easy to follow  : People think that everything is connected to everything in ways unknown to us. We can only witness the results of these subterranean currents and deduce the existence of such currents from the observable flotsam. The planets influence our lives, dry coffee sediments contain information about the future, black cats portend disasters, certain dates are propitious, certain numbers are to be avoided. The world is unsafe because it can never be fathomed. People believe that some things work for them because they worked - without realizing that the results  could simply be due to chance - for others. 

There is a real story on how superstitions take root: When Trobriand (in South Pacific)Islanders went fishing their behavior changed, depending on where they fished. When they fished close to shore—where the waters were calm, the fishing was consistent, and the risk of disaster was low—superstitious behavior among them was nearly nonexistent. But when the fishermen sailed for open seas—where they were far more vulnerable and their prospects far less certain—their behavior shifted. They became very superstitious, often engaging in elaborate rituals to ensure success. In other words, a low sense of control had produced a high need for superstition. One, in effect, substituted for the other.

Ignorance, lack of critical thinking skills, fear are responsible for superstitions.

Something bad happens to you. You don't know why it happened because you don't have knowledge about it. You fear it might happen again. You try to connect it to something unrelated, because you cannot think properly without basic knowledge, try to shift the blame to it and avoid it. Even if there is no positive  outcome because of this irrational behaviour, you get temporary emotional support you cling on to and you refuse to let go. 

Superstitious behaviour in sports persons show something specific.  The superstitious behavior of baseball players is targeted almost entirely toward the aspect of the game over which the players typically have the least control: offense. Defensive play in baseball, by comparison, is a low-risk venture that lies largely within a player’s control. Usually, all a player has to do is catch—and then, perhaps, throw—the ball. This is an admittedly difficult task, especially for normal human beings. But it is something professional baseball players do exceedingly well. Despite the bloopers you might see on ESPN, fielding errors in professional baseball are rare. The fielding percentage among all major-league baseball teams is just over 98 percent. Moreover, this performance is remarkably consistent. In 2012, every major-league team—even the awful ones, like Chicago Cubs—recorded a fielding percentage of at least .980. Defense, in other words, is a lot like fishing close to shore: it’s not a sure thing, but it’s close. Batting, however, is another story. Here, failure is the norm. In 2012, the combined batting average for all major-league teams was just .254, or 25.4 percent. This means that the best baseball players in the world failed to get a hit nearly three out of every four times they came to bat. And for those batters who do manage to make contact with the ball, much still depends on chance: where the fielders happen to be standing at the time the ball is struck; whether the sun is in a fielder’s eyes; whether a ground ball hits a clod of dirt and bounces fair or foul—a thousand things can happen between the time a ball is struck and the time the player reaches first base—and the batter has no control over any of them.

Soldiers in battle, who stare at death most of the time, have long been known for their superstitious ways because of the fear of  loss of life.

During hard times : It is during these moments of vulnerability—when we feel we have done all that we can do and the matter is out of our hands—when the pull of superstition becomes almost irresistible. When people hit the  rock bottom, when there seems no hope, simply believing that we have some sort of edge which can be brought by following some rituals - no matter how dumb they look to rational thinking people - can be enough to actually give  people following them that pseudo-edge. Some feel a placebo effect because of following some rituals of superstitions and regain the lost confidence.

But do people realize they are getting into dangerous delusions while following these superstitious beliefs? How can they overcome these false impressions? Undoubtedly by going the scientific way!

Because science asks us to follow the rational way of doing things. It takes tremendous will power to overcome a superstitious mind and rational thinking helps a lot in this process. Consider this:

You know most of the information on how things work in nature. You have adequate scientific knowledge to link this information to things that happen around you. Then you understand how you can utilize this knowledge to succeed in life. For instance, you have darkness around you. You know some things about electromagnetic radiation.  Then you use your rational thinking capacity to utilize these things to remove darkness with the help of light. This is a permanent solution because each time you find darkness you can use this knowledge of making lights and overcome the difficulty and fear.

An uninformed  person like the ones in ancient times fears this darkness and he starts some rituals  that he feels would make him  overcome the fear. But this is a temporary phenomenon. Each time he faces the darkness he has to fear it and follow the rituals again with minimum satisfaction. 

That is the difference between following the scientific way and following the superstitions! Scientific knowledge gives you tremendous confidence as it makes you understand things in the way they should be understood, utilize things in the way they should be utilized, guide you during difficult times, giving you permanent solutions to your problems and removing your fears for ever.

Now which one do you feel is permanent and a true problem solver? Decide for yourself!

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