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How to deal with superstition

  1. Jun 19, 2009 #1
    Is science a superstition?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2009 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    Do pigs fly? :biggrin:
  4. Jun 19, 2009 #3
    I don't think any reasonable definition of "superstition" could include science. Why do you ask?
  5. Jun 19, 2009 #4
    No science couldn't, here is the definition of supersition:
    1 a: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation b: an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition.
    2: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary.

    Would hope you would have looked up the definition before asking that question, made you look a bit of a plonker if I'm honest with you.
  6. Jun 19, 2009 #5


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    Science is the cure for superstition/religion. Science comes up with a theory, then does everything that it can to destroy it. If it survives, they try harder. Eventually it becomes either an accepted theory, a rejected theory, or a law. Superstition/religion says 'This is the way it is. Believe it or we'll kill you.'
  7. Jun 19, 2009 #6
    With Mysticism.

    By definition, science cannot be superstition. Grab a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word.

    You really didn't bother to think your position through before posting. How could this not be any more clear of an answer?

    Phrak: Fail
  8. Jun 19, 2009 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Were did you get your definition? Did you just make it up?

    Here is one that refers more to a specific action
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  9. Jun 19, 2009 #8
    Haha beat you!
  10. Jun 19, 2009 #9
  11. Jun 19, 2009 #10
    Uh...no. Why would science be a superstition? Superstitions are what arise when people misunderstand causality and make incorrect conclusions based on patterns that they observe. Science by definition seeks to determine causal relationships. Of course, scientists are people too, and many hold to superstitions in spite of their scientific understanding. I have a physicist friend who plays with crystals, ouija boards, and other such things. But ideally science can be used to demolish unsubstantiated superstitions.

    I'll go ahead and politely disagree with the many people who are sure to casually equate all religious beliefs with "superstition." But that could spawn a whole other discussion...
  12. Jun 19, 2009 #11
    Ouija Boards, has noone told him how they work yet? Fool!
  13. Jun 19, 2009 #12


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    this is a setup post, isn't it? :tongue:
  14. Jun 19, 2009 #13
    Who me? it was just a comment on how ridiculous some peoples beliefs can be, don't want a discussion on Ouija Boards, they don't do anything ghostly/supernatural. FULL STOP.
  15. Jun 19, 2009 #14


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    no Phrak's, sorry I sould've quoted it
  16. Jun 19, 2009 #15
    Fair enough, couldn't decide if it was me or not and was not going to let someone request a debate on Ouija Boards.
  17. Jun 19, 2009 #16
    Hey, I have no problem discussing the efficacy of Ouija boards. Heck, we could even design an experiment to deduce the cause of the motion of the lens thingy.
  18. Jun 19, 2009 #17
    There's nothing to discuss. It has been proven idio-motor movements move the glass.

    Derren Brown did a good show on it, he gave a Ouija Board and let some students loose on it. They got the glass to move to all the letters and find the spirits name. He then demonstrated that the spirit they found (he told them the story of a suicide group how died in the building) was a women still very much alive and sitting in the van outside. They moved the glass based on suggestions he gave them. Before you argue it, by saying something like "well in that situation yes but not in all", I urge you to realise people only find out what they want to find, stories about things going on in haunted places. People are extremely prone to suggestion and it only takes the slightest of hints at a ghost story to get a person to want to find something on a Ouija Board.

    Like table tipping when it moves around the room, if you place a sheet of glass accross the top of the table (not attached) the glass moves not the table, showing the people are moving it.

    edit - it's called Derren Brown, Seance. I suggest everyone gives it a watch, I find all his work fascinating.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2009
  19. Jun 19, 2009 #18
    a) Who is to say which beliefs are truly ignorant or not? There may be more evidence for some ways of thinking, but that doesn't make them factual.

    b) Fear of the unknown is an innate characteristic in humanity. Why else would every civilization independently make up a set of gods and fantastic ideas to rationalize every unknown aspect of life? Why do scientists continue to extend their science to make predictions at the very first second of the universe? It's not rational to extrapolate that far. We do it because we have an innate fear of the unknown, and we want an explanation for everything.

    c) "a false conception of causation" could refer to any belief in something that is untrue. Scientific theories are not fact, and history has shown us that most scientific theories are flat out wrong..although their predictions may be good approximations to reality. Thus, it stands to reason that the current physics theories are also false models of causation.

    d) a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary. Many scientific theories do not fit all of the observations, yet they are still widely held to be true. People just assume that the theory is correct and that someone will someday discover the reason why not all of the experiments worked. Well....

    In conclusion, yes I do think science can be superstitious, strictly speaking..although that's bending the common use of the word which is normally only used for blatantly obvious cases of superstition
  20. Jun 19, 2009 #19
    a) aside from science, give me one other belief that has anywhere near as much evidence to back it up. (bearing in mind in b you specifically say gods and fantastic ideas are made up). We are not talking about different ways of thinking within science, just of science itself.
    b) I simply said it was an interesting point I saw in an article and can't see why it was necessary for you to attack me on it.
    c) did I say science was 100%? No. It's just that at this point in time it is the only way of thinking with any reasonable form of evidence for it. Again, you seem to be looking within science at different theories and such, not at science as a whole (compared to a religious conviction for example). If everything we did in science came out right first time it would be a pretty boring field to work in.
    d) Scientists constantly work to provide the answers, it is this progress towards a reason that helps people believe them. My current PC background sums this up perfectly: The Scientific Method - Here are the facts, what conclusions can we draw from them. The Religious Method - Here are the conclusions, what facts can we find to support it. Religion simply says you will believe it, and when questioned the answer is always "because that's how god made it".

    To call science superstitious is seriously deforming the definition let alone the common use of the word.
  21. Jun 19, 2009 #20
    "Science" is a collection of theories, not one theory...

    There are many scientific theories that are at odds with each other, and have divided their respective scientific communities.

    There are also many scientific theories that don't have substantial evidence.

    Some people require are more easily convinced than others, and don't require as much evidence to consider something to be "rational."

    There are also varying degrees of truth. For example, early scientists may have thought that belief in Newton's laws was rational...when later on they found out they are not truly correct. Where do you draw the line?

    In the end, what we have is a collection of evidence...and no definitive theories. The theories you choose to believe are based on some level of faith / superstition. The more evidence there is, the less part faith there is...but there is always a portion of blind faith in any belief.
  22. Jun 19, 2009 #21
    Look as I put it before, science is always attempting to disprove things and come up with better theories. That's how it works. Religion on the other hand simply say's "this is how it is". Science as a belief system has evidence behind it. Any current theories are there because there has been tests conducted and evidence collected for it. Religion does not, there is no evidence to back up the claims.
    Science is a collection of theories, correct, but don't confuse theory with hypothesis. A theory is tested and has evidence to back it up. An hypothesis has no such evidence and is simply a concept. It is when people start classing hypothesis as theory and telling the public this that they believe it.
    You need to look at the whole premise of science as the OP asks and not at specific areas. The moment you break anything down you end up with little bits of superstition here and there. Break down the bible and you find some facts (locations, animals etc) but this isn't enough to consider it an accurate theory.
  23. Jun 19, 2009 #22
    they could out of cannons.

  24. Jun 19, 2009 #23
    that fits the definition of religion as well....

    ooops can we say that?
  25. Jun 19, 2009 #24
    You could say that there is such thing as "Scientific Superstition" which is generally labeled as "Junk Science". There are an incredibly large number of wackjobs out there proposing "scientific" ideas that the vast majority of people swallow hook line and sinker and tend to believe these things as absolute truth much like one would a religion. My very religious grandfather was just telling me the other day about his new book written by "an actual scientist" regarding the benefits of holistic medicine. I didn't read it myself so I have no idea how much of it was really junk but his insistence that the man was "an actual scientist" set off my crackpot alarm.

    I saw an episode of his show where he supposedly knocked a guy out with a strobe light and hypnotized him then woke him up in an abandoned warehouse where actors dressed as zombies suddenly came out to attack him. I'm fairly certain it was a put on.

    Oh and I have read or seen a documentary which claims that the mechanism behind the ouijia board is similar to that of dowsing. Slight unconscious movements of the hand. I think it was MIH that once posted an article that gave a scientific explanation for the slight hand movements.
  26. Jun 20, 2009 #25
    The mechanism you speak of is idio-motor movements. Slight unconcious signals from your brain. He does a good episode where he shows how by think strong enough about moving a body part, if you feel it you can feel the muscles 'twinge'. He asked a guy to hide a watch in a city and then found it by following the signals.
    Derren Brown is different to usual performers. He uses proven psychological techniques, which is why I enjoy his shows. Watch him do a live show and you'll see what I mean. Yes some things look far too implausible (when someone answers a phone and falls asleep), but what you have to understand is that isn't the first time he's spoken with them. He usually has prior contact and conditions you to do something when you here a sound/see an image. Watch The Heist if you want to see that in action. I think that's the only show you actually see the whole process and here it properly explained. Good watch.
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