Why do we stigmatize unusual fears and differences?

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In summary: Fear usually comes from ignorance, those who fear stars probably simply don't understand them in any real sense. There are people that don't understand that the sun is a star, and since the dawn of man, a comet was a terrifying spectacle. In summary, Tony Flanders discusses how people are scared by the stars because of ancient human psychology and mythology. He sympathizes with those who are scared and goes on to say that he has a deep connection to the stars. Things always sound crazier when taken out of context.
  • #1
tfr000
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"At a deeper level, I've had several people tell me that the stars scare them."
-Tony Flanders, Sky & Telescope, Jan. 2016 issue
 
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  • #2
what was the stated reason ?
seems a bit oddballDave
 
  • #3
tfr000 said:
"At a deeper level, I've had several people tell me that the stars scare them."
-Tony Flanders, Sky & Telescope, Jan. 2016 issue
I suspect this has to do with human psychology and mythology, deeply embedded in our species' memory and DNA over tens of thousands of years. We deeply suspect our origin and destiny are tied to the stars. And we don't fully understand it.

I have detailed and distinctive memories of first gazing at the stars as a very young boy on the high plains of Texas, and of my first experience gazing at them through a telescope. Somehow, there and then, I sensed that the stars were alive and had meaning, that they were aware of me, and I became very afraid and ran inside. Later, when I first applied my eye to a telescope - it had been trained on Venus - I saw not a planet, but a yin-yang symbol! And again, I ran inside. It was only many years later that I learned what a yin-yang symbol, stars and planets actually were.
 
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  • #4
davenn said:
what was the stated reason ?
seems a bit oddballDave
None given. He discusses fear in general, fear of the dark in particular, and how it affects astronomy - we (humans) want to light up the dark. After the above statement, he does go on to say that he sympathizes, "The stars are utterly alien, completely and forever beyond our control."

I've always found that a very dark sky inspires a sort of calm, contemplative, almost reverent state. The definition of sublime.
 
  • #5
tfr000 said:
"At a deeper level, I've had several people tell me that the stars scare them."
-Tony Flanders, Sky & Telescope, Jan. 2016 issue
Whatever. I've learned not to act too surprised at the quirks of random people.
 
  • #6
Fear usually comes from ignorance, those who fear stars probably simply don't understand them in any real sense. There are people that don't understand that the sun is a star, and since the dawn of man, a comet was a terrifying spectacle.
i+dont+believe+the+moon.gif


Go look at youtube for the amounts of pure ignorance, there are some quite entertaining ideas about a flat earth, geocentric universes, and my favorite: time dilation around a black hole being caused by the simulation computer struggling to keep up.
 
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  • #7
Colliding galaxies, gamma ray burst from imploding stars, our solar system getting sucked into a SMBH. Pick your poison. Its probably not so much ignorance as it is scientific documentaries proposing "what could happen". The same could be said about near Earth asteroids, or invasion by an alien race. How ever irrational a fear of remote possibilities can be.
 
  • #8
Not me, but I do know someone who isn't afraid of stars as such,
but they find that considering the vastness of space and the distances between things is just too much for them,
so they would rather not think about it.
 
  • #9
newjerseyrunner said:
Go look at youtube for the amounts of pure ignorance, there are some quite entertaining ideas about a flat earth, geocentric universes, and my favorite: time dilation around a black hole being caused by the simulation computer struggling to keep up.
That's hilarious. Hadn't heard that one before. Thanks for posting :smile:
 
  • #10
I've never been afraid of the stars however when looking out at them on a particularly clear night I have *FELT* the vastness of space. At those moments I feel compelled to grab a hold the Earth lest I fall off and the small mote I live on be swept away.

BoB
 
  • #11
newjerseyrunner said:
Fear usually comes from ignorance, those who fear stars probably simply don't understand them in any real sense. There are people that don't understand that the sun is a star, and since the dawn of man, a comet was a terrifying spectacle.Go look at youtube for the amounts of pure ignorance, there are some quite entertaining ideas about a flat earth, geocentric universes, and my favorite: time dilation around a black hole being caused by the simulation computer struggling to keep up.

gjonesy said:
Colliding galaxies, gamma ray burst from imploding stars, our solar system getting sucked into a SMBH. Pick your poison. Its probably not so much ignorance as it is scientific documentaries proposing "what could happen". The same could be said about near Earth asteroids, or invasion by an alien race. How ever irrational a fear of remote possibilities can be.

I think there is an excess of cynicism here. And prejudgment. The original quote has no context, so these hypotheses shed no light on the subjects (not as much light as it sheds on the hypothesizers :wink:).

Things always sounds crazier when taken out of context. For all we know, these are intelligent people who are expressing a deep connection with the cosmos in a way you and I might in an intimate, reflective moment. If our intimate thoughts with another astro-buff were publicly splashed across a glossy page for all to judge, it might look pretty crazy too.

I'd hate to be on the receiving end of this.

Sure, there's lots of fools out there, but I'd rather give em the benefit of the doubt until shown otherwise.

My 2c.
 
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  • #12
DaveC426913 said:
Sure, there's lots of fools out there, but I'd rather give em the benefit of the doubt until shown otherwise.

Dave, you are much too generous :smile:
idiots.jpg
 
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  • #13
DaveC426913 said:
I think there is an excess of cynicism here. And prejudgment.

No prejudgement here, I don't think it's odd to have healthy respect for anything in the realm of "possibility". Nor do I think any type of phobia has an impact on intelligence. Fear of any kind may be deemed irrational to some, but if you are the one with the phobia its not irrational to you at all. My mom was a smart woman but was terrified by spiders. I have a friend that is a software engineer that's scared of clowns. I know a lady who's a great person who is agoraphobic. You and I may veiw it as irrational for us...but we aren't inside their heads and therefore can't really know what's that's like.
 
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  • #14
rbelli1 said:
looking out at them on a particularly clear night I have *FELT* the vastness of space.

I have sometimes wondered if a particular star I'm looking at is even really there. Considering the night sky is filled with light from stars millions of years ago. We are looking at ancient history.
 
  • #15
DaveC426913 said:
I think there is an excess of cynicism here. And prejudgment.
Not really, humans fear what they don't understand, therefore ignorance causes fear. That's true for any animal, not just humans.
 
  • #16
newjerseyrunner said:
Not really, humans fear what they don't understand, therefore ignorance causes fear. That's true for any animal, not just humans

That statement is a half truth. I have a fear of being shot in the face. I'm not ignorant of guns, I understand them quite well as part of my job, I'm actually a professional and an expert marksmen. My fear actually comes from knowledge, I know what a bullet can do to you.
 
  • #17
newjerseyrunner said:
Not really, humans fear what they don't understand, therefore ignorance causes fear. That's true for any animal, not just humans.
My point is that I think you're reading too much into it.
 
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  • #18
gjonesy said:
That statement is a half truth. I have a fear of being shot in the face. I'm not ignorant of guns, I understand them quite well as part of my job, I'm actually a professional and an expert marksmen. My fear actually comes from knowledge, I know what a bullet can do to you.
I didn't claim all fear was caused by ignorance, I merely stated that ignorance causes fear. I fear space because I don't know what's lurking out there, I fear the amazon river because I do know what's lurking there.

DaveC426913 said:
My point is that I think you're reading too much into it.
Fair enough, there's not enough context to know why these people say that stars scare them.
 
  • #19
newjerseyrunner said:
I merely stated that ignorance causes fear

That's a broad statement though. Sometimes ignorance causes the opposite, "curiosity".
 
  • #20
I've reread the thread and I get the point about context, but I also get the negative stereotype label "ignorant" that Dave pointed out.
After thinking about it a while I came to the conclusion that ignorance or fear of the unknown was probably an important survival instinct. And actually its not so "irrational, stupid, foolish or quirky" it actually maybe what's kept humans alive as a species.
 
  • #21
gjonesy said:
[...]
After thinking about it a while I came to the conclusion that ignorance or fear of the unknown was probably an important survival instinct. And actually its not so "irrational, stupid, foolish or quirky" it actually maybe what's kept humans alive as a species.
Yes, as long as they are mentally healthy. That case can be counted in. :biggrin:
 
  • #22
gjonesy said:
I've reread the thread and I get the point about context, but I also get the negative stereotype label "ignorant" that Dave pointed out.
After thinking about it a while I came to the conclusion that ignorance or fear of the unknown was probably an important survival instinct. And actually its not so "irrational, stupid, foolish or quirky" it actually maybe what's kept humans alive as a species.
Exactly, all higher creatures fear what they don't know. Why does "ignorant" have a negative stereotype? I certainly didn't mean it that way, and that's not it's definition. Ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge.
 
  • #23
newjerseyrunner said:
Why does "ignorant" have a negative stereotype?

Just from the type of fear I'm guessing. A phobia that is relatable as opposed to one that isn't. Fear of heights is quite common and understandable, where as coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is not common. People with unusual fears are often ridiculed. As are people with different lifestyles, ethnicity, and beliefs.
 

Related to Why do we stigmatize unusual fears and differences?

1. What is the reason for being afraid of the stars?

There is no one specific reason for being afraid of the stars. Some people may have a fear of the unknown or the vastness of the universe, while others may have a fear of the potential dangers or mysteries of space.

2. Can you physically be harmed by stars?

No, stars are incredibly distant and cannot physically harm us. However, some objects in space, such as solar flares or supernovas, can have indirect effects on Earth and potentially cause harm.

3. Is it normal to fear something as distant as stars?

Yes, it is normal to have fears of things that are beyond our control or understanding. Additionally, humans have always had a sense of curiosity and wonder about the stars, which can sometimes lead to fear.

4. Are there any known cases of people being afraid of the stars?

Yes, there are some documented cases of people having a fear of the stars, known as astrophobia. This phobia can vary in severity and may manifest as a fear of stargazing, fear of space travel, or fear of the night sky.

5. How can someone overcome their fear of the stars?

Like with any fear, overcoming a fear of the stars may require seeking professional help or therapy. Additionally, learning more about the science and facts behind stars and space can help to alleviate fears and increase understanding and comfort with the topic.

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