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Posts Tagged ‘superstition’

Move over, McDonalds!  There’s a new worst slogan in the world.

Budweiser (a “beer” company) has a new ad campaign about sports superstitions.  In a nutshell: sports superstitions (like sitting in your “lucky” chair) are funny, charming, and gosh darn it, might even be real!  Budweiser’s tagline: “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work”.

I disagree.  It’s weird, period.

What’s more, it’s ignorant, embarrassing, and frankly makes me a little pessimistic about humanity.  Do you really think that wearing that unwashed jersey will help your team win?  If yes, then please, please unfriend me on Facebook.  I don’t want to have anything to do with you.

aztecs40

This is only weird if it doesn’t work!

Superstitions have always been a force for evil in the world.  Yes, evil.  Superstitions caused Aztecs to pull the beating hearts out of innocent people.  Superstitions caused intelligent women to be burned at the stake as witches.  Superstitions caused Okonkwo to kill his son Ikemefuna to appease the village elders.  Superstitions put Galileo under house arrest, and drove Alan Turing to commit suicide, and prevent a sizeable number of otherwise educated adults from believing in the plain fact of man-made global warming.

Superstitions even keep a huge number of South Koreans from having fans in their bedrooms.

[Cue double-take]

I’m not making this up.  For some strange reason, many South Koreans think that a simple oscillating fan can kill you in your sleep.  This, despite the fact that fan death has never happened in human history.  And despite the fact that the rest of the entire world uses fans in their bedrooms to no ill effect.

Fan+Death

But wait! you might say, in Korean I presume.  People have been found dead with fans running nearby!  The fans must have killed them!  Case closed!

I’ll leave it to the reader to punch holes in that kind of “logic”.

You may have heard of the famous experiment in which B. F. Skinner discovered “superstition” in pigeons:

“Skinner placed a series of hungry pigeons in a cage attached to an automatic mechanism that delivered food to the pigeon ‘at regular intervals with no reference whatsoever to the bird’s behavior.’ He discovered that the pigeons associated the delivery of the food with whatever chance actions they had been performing as it was delivered, and that they subsequently continued to perform these same actions.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner#Superstitious_Pigeons]

pigeon

A typical Budweiser drinker.

Your team wins while you’re wearing that lucky shirt?  The shirt must have done it!  Of course, you should be ashamed of yourself.  You’re not any smarter than a pigeon.

Carl Sagan wrote a book called “The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”.  The idea is that science, and only science, illuminates; there is no other way to learn anything about the world.  The next time you’re around a “person” who exhibits superstitious nonsense around you, cough into your hand and say “Pigeon!”  Don’t worry; they won’t know what you’re talking about.  Like Giordano Bruno’s torturers, or the chicken-eater Wade Boggs, or the people who stoned Tessie Hutchinson, they have no idea what science is, or logic, or common sense.  They won’t have heard of B. F. Skinner or Carl Sagan or Alan Turing or Giordano Bruno.

They will, however, be familiar with Budweiser “beer”.

And they’ll be enjoying it, pathetically, in the dark.

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220px-Clomipramine.svg

The next time someone sneezes, don’t bless them. Take this instead.

[Note: I plagiarized this post.  From myself.  Over two years ago I “started” a blog and gave up a day later.  But that first post was OK, so here it is, with slight modifications.]

It’s the 21st century: science has successfully explained almost every aspect of the physical world (except that missing sock), and new successes are appearing every day. We have computers, cell phones, hand-held GPS devices, the Wii, velcro, and 8-track tape players. And instant pudding.

So why do people still cross their fingers for luck? Why is anyone still tossing spilled salt over their shoulder? Why do athletes still wear their “lucky” shorts? (See this for a list of the saddest athletes you’ve ever heard of.)

It boggles the mind.

Let this post be a rallying call to everyone that still has a shred of intellectual integrity. Let’s all agree to cast out the pernicious demon of superstition from our lives. Let’s all agree that there’s no such thing as your lucky number, that breaking a mirror won’t have any harmful effects (unless you break it with your bare hand), that Friday the 13th is nothing more than a bad movie franchise, and that crossing your fingers has about as much effect on the universe as taking a dump and wishing it were pancakes.

The next time you say “tomorrow’s going to be a good day”, refrain from knocking on wood.  Just don’t do it.  I mean, come on.  It’s silly.  Don’t do it.

Please.

Don’t do it.

And let’s not tolerate such bizarre, 13th century behavior in others: if someone is wearing their lucky Cubs jersey before the big game, call them on it. Say, “Hey Bob, you think wearing that will help? That’s ridiculous and frankly embarrassing. If you want to wear the jersey to support your team, then fine. But please, don’t tell me that wearing that shirt will have any effect on the outcome of the game.” And speaking of the Cubs, let’s all say it together: there is no such thing as a curse. The Cubs just haven’t been all that good in the past 100 years or so.

To bring the world into the 21st century, to promote a scientific and rational mindset, to remain skeptical in the face of irrational and pseudo-scientific claims—to do all these things requires your help. It all starts with you.

Seriously, you.

You can fire off a cannon shot in the superstition culture wars by just not being superstitious yourself. Continue the fight by making fun of people who are superstitious. (Shame: it’s a powerful weapon.) Start peer-pressuring people into being a little more rational. It’ll be good for them. They need to grow up. They can handle it; you know they can.

If not, there’s always clomipramine.

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