12-30-99, 04:40 PM #1
Hi all. I don't visit this site often, and only started to recently, so I'm unsure as to whether this topic has been discussed already. Regardless, I feel it's a very important issue. And so, let's talk about superstition.
In a few short days it will be the new millenium. (Or one year from now, if you're counting the years more succinctly.) We've come a long way. In the last few hundred years, especially, we've seen our manner of thinking evolve greatly, due to the role of science and technology. Science is something new to humans. It has seen us gain a better grasp of who we are and where we come from, and advanced the living conditions of people everywhere.
Science, along with mathematics in general, is unique in that it is the first and only type of argument to exist where its sentiments--the thoughts or ideas trying to be conveyed--can be *proven*. Because of this grand fact, science has been the key to dismissing many things that were once thought to be true. Superstitious things.
Take, for instance, the fact that 12th century sailors were forbidden to eat onions while sailing, in fear that their breath would alter their compass readings.
Or the habit of covering your mouth when you sneeze...? That habit's been around since before we knew about germs. It was done to limit or stop the expulsion of good spirits. You see, sneezing was not seen as an instinctive reflex of the body. No, like so many other things before the advent of science, it was attributed to the supernatural, or the gods. (Thus, the habit that has since become mere good manners of saying "bless you" when someone sneezes, to keep the evil spirits from entering the body during the absence of the good spirits.)
Now, you'd think that with science as it is, there would be a lot less superstition today than existed in earlier times. There is. You don't see people labelled as witches in the supermarket and dragged to the center of town to burn. (At least, not in the civilized world.) This isn't due to fear of punishment for such an act, either. It's because people have a greater sense of rationality for the world.
But there is still SO MUCH SUPERSTITION that it's embarrassing! And quite sad. It's one thing to demand proof for every little thing or not take it to be true; that's going too far. But it's quite another to believe in things like witches and goblins and ghosts and the devil.
And here is where superstition and religion become one and the same.
I'm not going to go into my personal beliefs because it does not pertain to my argument. Suffice it to say, I believe faith to be very important, and religion to have contributed to many good deeds over the millenia. Just this morning, I read an article in the paper about how a couple are feeding 1700 homeless people steak dinners this New Years Eve. They explained, when asked about their actions, "Feeding the hungry is a very Christian thing to do."
But when the superstitious beliefs of religion come at odds with scientific fact, it's time to give up the fantasy and see the light!
I said I wouldn't talk about my personal beliefs. I'm also not going to get into specific examples--I'm not going to tell you that people can't come back from the dead, or that Man has been on this Earth for far more than a few thousand years, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. I won't go ANYWHERE near the discrepencies in many religious books, such as the Bible, the Koran, or any other, or how they were written by biased, fallible human beings, and a lot of different ones. There are many other strings open in this forum for discussing discrepencies and so forth.
What I would like to remark on are two central causes of this attitude we seem unable to give up.
One is humankind's desire to be a part of a grander, larger something. This is what faith and religion stem from, ultimately. No one likes to believe that when they die, it'll be over. No one likes the idea (I know I don't) that there is *no* grander being watching over us, that our lives are just that--our own, short and insignificant on the broader scale.
The other reason for our continued unscientific thinking is our stubborn tendency to cling to the notion that we're at the middle of things. That humankind is something more important than any of the other types of life that exist. Here I think I'll use some examples to make my point clearer. Example: God made man, and the animals were made *for* him, to do as he please. Example: the Earth, too, was made for man. (Believed by many cultures if not said outright in the Christian Bible.) Example: we thought ourselves the center of the universe prior to the Copernican revolution. Example: many still think we're the only source of intelligent life that exists, when there are so many billions of other worlds out there and the potential is so large. Example: the neverending debate of creationism versus evolutionism.
These *are* important and valid things to discuss. Prior to the advent of science, it would have seemed that any of these ideas could be true. Yet after science points to the truth, how can people still cling to their ignorant viewpoints and dismiss the evidence? To be frank, I find it disappointing. It undermines our intelligence, and centuries from now, we're probably going to look back and wonder what we were thinking, like we do now at our ancestors who lived in "the Dark Ages".
Well, these are my views. I urge everyone to think rationally about what you think is common sense, and to question a few of those taken-for-granted points that I've brought up above. It's a shame that, even with the existence of science, pseudoscience and superstition largely live on.
12-30-99, 04:55 PM #2
But it's quite another to believe in things like witches and goblins and ghosts and the devil.
12-30-99, 05:41 PM #3
Science and math are wonderful in that they give us insight into our temporary physical world.
The life and teachings of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is wonderful in that it gives us insight into our eternal spiritual world.
12-30-99, 06:55 PM #4
I said above that a rational person isn't to believe in witches. Let me clarify: when I said "witch" I meant anyone with "powers" above and beyond those of your average everyday layman (i.e. powers of any kind!). Such supernatural creatures do not, of course, exist.
In hindsight I realize "witch" also describes a person who *perceives* themselves as possessing magic--those who profess to practice sorcery. Of these people, I realize there are many. This is, again, the point of my argument. That in today's world, we have so many who believe such fanciful things to their core. If it was all in fun, it would be fine. People are free to believe what they want. But it hurts society, and stands in the way of the global advancement of humankind. This is as much a problem in America and the developed countries as it is in the backwater corners of the world.
To each his own. Peace.
12-30-99, 07:39 PM #5
Let me clarify: when I said "witch" I meant anyone with "powers" above and beyond those of your average everyday layman (i.e. powers of any kind!). Such supernatural creatures do not, of course, exist.
I know I have shared this in one of the other forums that deal with the paranormal, but I actually knew a guy in high school who could literally read minds, word for word. It wasn't a parlor trick - I was able to verify this for myself to my own satisfaction. Do you include this ability when you talk about "powers above and beyond those of your average everyday layman"?
For you to state so bluntly that a person with such abilities does not exist simply because you have not witnessed it for yourself, tells me that you have closed your mind to all possibilities outside the limited realm of your own personal experience. This goes beyond just being skeptical, which would be perfectly understandable, and even expected from a rational person who had not experienced or witnessed such things himself.
Another point I would like to make is that having these supernatural abilities (such as mind reading, prophetic dreams, etc.), does not a witch make. By your definition, Truestory would be a witch!! I don't think she'd appreciate that much - TS, please correct me if I'm wrong here.
Generally speaking, a witch is one who practices one of the Witchcraft traditions, of which there are probably as many as there are Christian religions (Alexandrian, Dianic, Gardnerian and Wiccan are but a few of the Witchcraft traditions); it is a way of celebrating the God and Goddess by the use of semi-structured guidelines passed down through the years in each tradition. Healing, magick and spells are only part of the practice known as "Witchcraft".
12-30-99, 08:25 PM #6
Hah hah, okay, to my knowledge then. But seriously, I (along with the entire scientific community at large) would love to see your friend show off his (non-parlour-trick) gift. Put him on tv or something. I'm sure the media would eat him up.
12-30-99, 08:58 PM #7
LOL!!! No... Although I've been called worse, I don't think I've ever been called a witch!
Also, one thing "which" you might want to keep in mind... I did not solicit the experiences "which" I had, "which" I believe is very different from practicing "witchcraft."
Yesterday's history. Tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a "gift." That's why we call it "the present."
What will you do with your gift of today?
12-30-99, 09:17 PM #8
First, let me say that I'm pretty sure I followed your topic post; please forgive and correct any contextual errors I might be assuming.
But I did want to pitch a couple of ideas at you (I'm working on my slider):
If I might propose two concurrent perspectives to any given situation: the immediate and the universal. Specifically, there are immediate concerns, of individuals, and then the universal "truism" (call it what you will) in which many individuals find their motivation to action.
Superstitions are largely cultural, and thus seem to tread within the universal perspective. In this sense, the formulae regarding various superstitions becomes very clear. (Salt over your left shoulder? Hit that li'l Devil in the eye; it's based in a cultural assumption. Knock on wood? You're being polite to the wood sprites. Yes, these are simple superstitions but they work for the example ... I hope.)
But what about the individual? Perhaps the cultural assumption is gone and only sentimental motivations attach the individual to a superstition.
And here we come to a modern twist: the notion of rights. Americans, theoretically, are supposed to be tolerant of ideas. For so long, though, people have defended their right to hold bad ideas that we now, culturally, it seems, consider it the right of the individual to believe in anything they want. (Please allow me to separate the belief from action based on belief--that, I believe, is its own issue.)
Furthermore, Americans have a culture that's based on "inherited" ideas; that is, we learn certain foundations from those who tread before us. Thus, even if a specific idea was true and right in its time, what can be said of the version you encounter several human generations down the line? When the first believer in an idea documents that idea, it is genuine in that sense. But a philosophical descendant might receive the idea as interpreted by the interceding generations; the idea itself spun and reshaped by other notions contemporary to the individual experiencing them.
But the end-all is that I don't know what motivates any specific individual to any silly superstition. The real ball-stomper, though, seems to be the cumulative power of superstitions. I think that superstitions are part of what holds any philosophy back in regards to its goal. It kills me that various religious ideas are so littered with the superstitions and the ill-begotten philosophical clusterbumbles that are among the most potent forces preventing the realization of the philosophical aspiration.
But it's all commentary; I hope it's worthwhile to you.
Let me also say thank you for that post ... it's a delicate thing constructing those principles for communication.
Let me also, please, offer one note regarding your responses: you might encounter a certain amount of trouble in this topic because superstitions, by my assertion, are universal. It seems that individuals who suspect themselves included in an idea they find unpalatable often prefer to deflect the idea itself, dismissing its more refined subtleties and preferring to stand the superstition on its own merit. This advice is based solely on my own observations and conclusions, and may be unnecessary in the end.
But don't let it get you down. (If I'm way off your line just say so.)
The Universe is the Practical Joke of the General at the Expense of the Particular .... (Perdurabo; The Book of Lies)
[This message has been edited by tiassa (edited December 30, 1999).]
12-30-99, 09:34 PM #9
Which witch? Is the present a good time to present the present?
Thank you. Such irony makes me smile.
The Universe is the Practical Joke of the General at the Expense of the Particular .... (Perdurabo; The Book of Lies)
12-30-99, 09:41 PM #10
We're not related are we? You read a lot like my brother, like almost word for word. Anyway, if they put Searcher's friend on TV, you still wouldn't believe it. You would then say that it was "set up" or a fraud somehow. Otherwise, unless you don't get PBS or the Learning Channel, you would by now firmly believe in the alien phenomenon, all kinds of paranormal phenomenon, and of course, the Bible.
I think that science explains what God already knows and created for us. That the two are in no way mutually exclusive. I don't think that we know everything there is to know about the history of this earth from a scientific or a spiritual standpoint. I also don't think that we have fully understood the meaning in Genesis. The Bible can not contradict science because the Bible is true. We lack understanding.
"ET phone home!"
"Uh, hello Satan?"
"Hey, your plan worked great! They all think I'm cute!"
12-30-99, 11:41 PM #11
Lori is correct when she says that you wouldn't believe it if you saw it on TV either. Not to make you feel bad about it in any way - I didn't believe it either until I had tested it in person for myself.
It happened this way. There was a guy named Joe Weems who attended my high school during my Junior year. I didn't know him all that well, but I did sit next to him in English class that year. I had heard from several friends that he had this eerie ability to read minds - word for word, no less! I was skeptical, to say the least. I decided on my own one day that I would test this ability for myself. I didn't tell him or anyone else of my plan before I implemented it. I decided to send him a very simple message during the time we were supposed to be reading something in our books in English class. While staring at my book and pretending to read it, I concentrated on the message, "Belinda likes you". It took a couple of minutes of concentrating on the message, but finally he looked over at me and said, "What are you doing?" When I asked him what he meant, he said, "You're trying to tell me something". I asked him what he thought I was trying to tell him, and he said, "Something about Belinda? That she likes me?" I was pretty much blown away by that since there's no other way he could have known that I was even sending him a mental message, much less what the message was! I was not the only one whose mind he had read - I was previously told about it by several people! He didn't show off with it - it was quite natural to him. Other than that, he was just a nice, normal sort of guy.
I haven't seen Joe since high school, and he's never shown up at any of the reunions. I have often wondered what happened to him, but I'll probably never know.
12-31-99, 12:18 AM #12
Sounds like a pretty intuitive guy.
Just out of curiosity's sake, how long ago was that?
12-31-99, 01:00 AM #13
Weitzel- I can answer your original question about why people cling to superstitions, even when science proves them invalid, in three words (and I would like to acknowledge 666 for this phrase):
WARM FUZZY BLANKET
They cling to beliefs that are comfortable to them and that don't rock their particular boats too much.
I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight, kill, and die for your right to say it.
12-31-99, 05:48 AM #14
Hi Weitzel and everyone!
This is my first time visiting here; I’d just like to share a few thoughts.
To tackle the question of superstition, we have to first look at from where superstition arises. Superstitions helped put explanations to things that people at the time could not understand. Over time these superstitions have become ingrained in our culture, and I would like to agree with what Tiassa has mentioned above.
That’s why they’re here, but haven’t they disappeared even when science has proven them wrong? I believe it’s simply because, as mentioned before, they’ve become a part of our culture and daily lives. I find myself wishing good luck to people before a test even though I don’t believe in luck. For me, it’s just a way of showing good intentions towards the others. The same goes for saying, “bless you” after someone sneezes. I don’t think there’s anything negative about this kind of “superstitiousness”; if you can call it that anymore at all. Wouldn’t the fact that one KNOWS the reasons behind these customs, make them in essence non-superstitious, and make them simply just cultural quips? Simply form, or conduct.
As for things which there is little proof of, say for example ghosts and ESP, I do think that it’s wise to be skeptical, but ideas such as this cannot be dismissed as “complete” nonsense either. As far as science goes, and we have come a long way, science still cannot explain everything. Part or science is the search for the truth, the why’s behind the what’s. If everything we could not explain right now was dismissed as nonsense, science would come to a state of stagnation. If no one sought to explain these things on “the fringe” of science, we would get nowhere! Without some imaginative people who sought to prove things are different than what everyone else believed, science would be no where, we’d never accept the earth was round, or revolved around the sun…
I would also like to remind people that much of science, even what is used to prove other concepts, is theoretical in nature. Not to say that it is wrong, what is accepted now is what has the most proof to support it, but as we discover more, some of these concepts could change and fundamentally change our whole notion of the why’s behind it all. In essence, what we may not be able to prove now, we may be able to prove later. So, I don’t know if I would say I believed in things like ghosts or ESP, but I do know there is a lot that we humans can’t explain, so it’s important to keep an open mind, but equally important to keep asking questions and searching for answers. Science is just one of the tools available for us to use to get those answers.
12-31-99, 05:59 AM #15
Well said, Tessa! I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. Thanks for the post, and everyone else who's contributed their thoughts.
I still wish the damn psychics would get off the television though...