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Source: (consider it) Thread: Superstition - does it cross your path?
Latchkey Kid
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The current thread on The Eucharist has had a brush with superstition.
Wikipedia and the OED are not particularly helpful.

Christian missionaries often characterised the beliefs of other religions as superstitions. On the radio this morning was a program about voodoo in a country where voodoo is a recognised religion.

I have heard of an Irish priest (hearsay, I know) that said in parts of Ireland superstition was mixed with Catholicism.

Do you consider some of the things you come across as superstition? I think of astrology as superstition. I didn't think of the angels that a patient said they saw at the end of their bed as superstition. I don't think anyone worries about a broken mirror or a black cat crossing the path or knocking on wood. But superstition is the explanation for killing the Salem Witches.
Tarot, anyone?

[link fixed][Again].

[ 27. February 2017, 06:05: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Eutychus
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There is a widespread and optimistic belief in a prison I know that if a prison officer drops their keys, it is a sign an inmate is about to be released.

I see superstition as a conviction that a particular circumstance or set of circumstances in and of themselves have power to bring about a specific, non-rational result.

Magic might be similarly defined as believing that performing a certain sequence of events has an intrinsic power to always achieve a specific, non-rational result.

Where this gets complicated is that when such a belief takes hold in a group of people's minds, it may actually end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, or at least acquire force. Icelandic people are quite touchy about their Huldufólk, to the point of diverting roads to avoid their supposed habitat.

Few Icelanders admit to believing in Huldufólk, but apparently few will deny their existence outright, either.

[ 27. February 2017, 05:32: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Sipech
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Not sure about your Eucharist link, as it's going to a Washington Post article on Obama becoming president of France.

But there certainly elements of superstition that creep into Christianity, which we could do with cutting out. I would guess that the Eucharistic reference would be to the myth of "real presence" which is theologically unsubstantiated, which can greatly hinder Christians from understanding the great symbolism behind the sacraments, by getting them to think that they are, in some way, functional.

Though if you want a truly absurd example of superstition, find a conservative Anglican during Lent and try to get them to the word "hallelujah". It's like getting an actor to say "Macbeth".

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quote:
Originally posted by Sipech:

Though if you want a truly absurd example of superstition, find a conservative Anglican during Lent and try to get them to the word "hallelujah". It's like getting an actor to say "Macbeth".

I'm not terribly conservative. I'll make a use-mention distinction: I will mention the word "alleluia" during Lent, but will not use it. But nor for superstitious reasons [Smile]
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Latchkey Kid
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Corrected Link to The Eucharist

Thanks, Sipech.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Sipech:
I would guess that the Eucharistic reference would be to the myth of "real presence" which is theologically unsubstantiated, which can greatly hinder Christians from understanding the great symbolism behind the sacraments, by getting them to think that they are, in some way, functional.

Detailed discussion of how this relates to the Eucharist probably belongs on the thread I have now successfully linked to. That said, I think you're likely to find that when pushed, even the most die-hard memorialist has some belief in something special about the bread and the wine in the context of communion.

My definitions above are an attempt to offer at least a theoretical distinction between superstition and religious practice. To me this distinction revolves around whether the faith is in the elements of the ceremony alone or not.

[ 27. February 2017, 06:11: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Latchkey Kid
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Where I live many people wear, and give their children to wear, amber necklaces in the belief that these can ward off illness (and also make vaccinations unnecessary). I even heard one person state that it protected from WiFi radiation. Is this superstition or just beliefs that lack empirical support?

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:

Christian missionaries often characterised the beliefs of other religions as superstitions. On the radio this morning was a program about voodoo in a country where voodoo is a recognised religion.

Thinking a different religious system than your own as superstition is merely ignorant bigotry.
Eutychus' definition of a self-contained event-result is closer to the definition I would use.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
Where I live many people wear, and give their children to wear, amber necklaces in the belief that these can ward off illness (and also make vaccinations unnecessary). I even heard one person state that it protected from WiFi radiation. Is this superstition or just beliefs that lack empirical support?

It superstitious if it is a belief in some intangible and intrinsic property of the amber without any satisfactory propositional explanation.

Again, where things get complicated is that it might conceivably work, to some extent, through the placebo effect, especially if the belief is widely shared in the community.

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
Christian missionaries often characterised the beliefs of other religions as superstitions.

What arguments could they use if they wished to refute Christianity being characterised as a superstition?
quote:
Do you consider some of the things you come across as superstition? I think of astrology as superstition. I didn't think of the angels that a patient said they saw at the end of their bed as superstition.
Can you say exactly why, I wonder? Since angels (when thought of as messengers from God or something as opposed to someone being called an ‘angel’ for doing something lovely) , are entirely imaginary, are they not?
quote:
I don't think anyone worries about a broken mirror or a black cat crossing the path or knocking on wood.
That is because Science has replaced those superstitions with knowledge of cause and effect!

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Boogie

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We are all susceptible to superstition. If we don't pick them up culturally we often make up our own.

A superstition is “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.”

Which sounds a lot like compulsive behaviour does it not? I wonder how many Christians loudly decry superstition but are, at the same time, struggling with compulsions?

Some compulsions are harmless and don't impact one's life at all, others have deep, lasting and harmful impact. I suppose superstition could do this too if it took up a lot of time which could be used productively?

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
That is because Science has replaced those superstitions with knowledge of cause and effect!

Interesting capitalisation of Science there.

Tell me, SusanDoris, are you anything of a wine connoisseur?

(There is a relevant reason for this question!).

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mr cheesy
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I think Christianity is all superstition - to the extent that we believe, say and act in ways that only make sense to us and which appear to outsiders to be appealing to be talking and gesturing to an observer who isn't there.

The interesting thing to me is how often we like to castigate others for superstition whilst conducting ourselves in similar ways. For example some Evangelicals like to point to Roman Catholic practices as superstition, and yet their own behaviours can also be described as superstitious. I'm not sure how else one could describe the idea that a certain activity will only go well if someone is praying about it.

Anyway, I'd also say that superstition is a good thing. I'm just thinking at the moment how to increase my "superstition allowance" during Lent.

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
That is because Science has replaced those superstitions with knowledge of cause and effect!

Interesting capitalisation of Science there.
Yes, I thought about whether to put a capital S, but I thought a lower case s would be sort of too vague!
quote:
Tell me, SusanDoris, are you anything of a wine connoisseur?
Not at all, I'm afraid! I was never interested in any kind of wine and had none until, at the age of about 40, I had six dubonnetsat a function with, I should add, no effects at all. I await your next post with interest.

[ 27. February 2017, 08:02: Message edited by: SusanDoris ]

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mr cheesy
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Seems fairly obvious to me that science is - or can be - a form of superstition. If it wasn't, the placebos wouldn't work.

Our brains are wired this way. Pretending that one has taught oneself to ignore superstition is a dangerous idea - almost everything we know and engage with in the world is affected by perception, and that in turn is strongly influenced by things we might describe as superstition.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I await your next post with interest.

Explain to me, Scientifically, what a terroir is.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Explain to me, Scientifically, what a terroir is.

Without wanting to type a book, this is largely to do with soil and climate. And, of course, scientists have written books on such things.
Like this one.

Whilst there certainly is a lot of mumbo-jumbo about wine, the idea that there is no scientific basis for it at all is bunk.

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Latchkey Kid
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
Christian missionaries often characterised the beliefs of other religions as superstitions.

What arguments could they use if they wished to refute Christianity being characterised as a superstition?
I would guess it would all be mixed up with colonialist superiority and a focus on the success of modern medicine vs traditional healing practices, so the question might not arise. I hesitate to speak for them.

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Eutychus
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There is a lot more going on in the concept of terroir than science, especially when it comes to marketing.

I would argue that modern advertising relies to a large extent on similar kinds of belief to that of Latchkey Kid's neighbours with respect to amber. I'm currently translating a scientific article that addresses how an indigenous South American product is being marketed globally through a kind of truce between local cosmonogy and agronomic standards brokered by fair trade.

In short, where I agree with you is the notion that superstition is something that only affects other people, or other "non-scientific" people.

[ 27. February 2017, 08:38: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Latchkey Kid
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
I didn't think of the angels that a patient said they saw at the end of their bed as superstition.

Can you say exactly why, I wonder? Since angels (when thought of as messengers from God or something as opposed to someone being called an ‘angel’ for doing something lovely) , are entirely imaginary, are they not?
From the perspective of spiritual care you try not to be judgemental and support a person's use of their own spiritual resources. These angels were not messengers but protectors. They may be imaginary, but are real to the person, probably in the same way that a person experiences a visit by a dead relative. I don't try to explain these experiences.

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Latchkey Kid
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Seems fairly obvious to me that science is - or can be - a form of superstition. If it wasn't, the placebos wouldn't work.

Our brains are wired this way. Pretending that one has taught oneself to ignore superstition is a dangerous idea - almost everything we know and engage with in the world is affected by perception, and that in turn is strongly influenced by things we might describe as superstition.

I think we need to distinguish between science as an approach* to knowledge and the claims by marketing that something is "scientifically proved" to be effective. The latter may appeal to our superstitious natures.

*Though I suppose in Feyerabend's Against Method where scientific knowledge is regarded as no different from other forms of knowledge, superstition may also pervade scientific method.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
There is a lot more going on in the concept of terroir than science, especially when it comes to marketing.

Sure, but I was objecting to your apparent suggestion to Susan that there was no science or scientific explanation at all.

quote:
I would argue that modern advertising relies to a large extent on similar kinds of belief to that of Latchkey Kid's neighbours with respect to amber. I'm currently translating a scientific article that addresses how an indigenous South American product is being marketed globally through a kind of truce between local cosmonogy and agronomic standards brokered by fair trade.
I'd suggest that almost everything that isn't completely superstition (including things which have no scientific basis whatsoever like horoscopes and many alternative medicines) is actually science filtered through perception and - yes - superstition. I don't think one can get away from it.

Another example I'd suggest is the common perception that one can "fight" cancer. Leaving aside the science behind positive thinking (which I believe is probably dubious), we all know people who were positive and were "fighting" the cancer but who then died. So in some sense the person who believes that they are going to be the one to buck the trend and survive the rare cancer is probably not being fully logical and instead is being "superstitious".

Again, I'd argue that this is probably a good thing in this context. The chances of death in a high speed car accident must be high, but if we were perfectly logical and/or scientific about it we wouldn't ever go anywhere. Believing that accidents won't happen to us (or not even being conscious of the potential for them) has its uses. Even whilst accepting the need for proper risk assessment and H&S.

quote:
In short, where I agree with you is the notion that superstition is something that only affects other people, or other "non-scientific" people.

I note that the second paragraph on the wikipedia page is quite interesting on this. The idea that superstitions are the beliefs of a minority is a strong one.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
I think we need to distinguish between science as an approach* to knowledge and the claims by marketing that something is "scientifically proved" to be effective. The latter may appeal to our superstitious natures.

*Though I suppose in Feyerabend's Against Method where scientific knowledge is regarded as no different from other forms of knowledge, superstition may also pervade scientific method.

I think that the scientific method itself is prone to superstition - albeit of a different form.

These days scientific discoveries are filtered through the gauze of statistical analysis, and there is an almost superstitious belief in the efficacy of arbitrary significance values.

We can also point at a large number of sciences where measurements are routinely made which give very little useful information. Sometimes the explanation for recording these is that they are "just what we've always done" or "part of what is involved in being x". The fear of bucking the trend, even when everyone accepts that the thing being done has no scientific value at all is a form of superstition.

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North East Quine

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I can provide examples of Presbyterian superstition. As strict Sabbatariaism ebbed away, it left some superstitions stranded above the water-line.

My grandmother would not use the future tense on a Sunday, and I know others who claimed that plans made on a Sunday would not come to fruition.

There's also a superstition that it is unlucky to cut your nails on a Sunday. I assume this started out as a prohibition of doing anything on the Sabbath, even something as insignificant as nail cutting. The minor example then survived the disappearance of major prohibitions.

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Gamaliel
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@Sipech, there is plenty of theological 'back-up' for a belief in the 'real presence' in the eucharist, however defined - just as there is plenty of theological support for the idea that Christ is somehow present when his people gather in whatever way they choose to do so ...

It's a both/and not an either/or ...

Your misrepresentation of traditions other than your own does you no favours.

As to where we draw the line ...

I'd suggest that a belief in some kind of 'real presence' isn't superstitious. Yet a belief in 'bleeding hosts' and so on is.

If we want to look for Protestant examples of superstition, I'd suggest that a great deal of 'Word Faith' and the uber-charismatic 'name it and claim it' and Jabez Prayer stuff falls fairly and squarely into the superstitious category.

I'd also suggest that some less cranky charismatic practices can topple over into superstition at times.

I've heard some 'tongues-speakers' claim that what when they speak in tongues they are speaking 'a language that the devil doesn't understand.'

How do they know that and what scriptural basis do they have for such a belief?

I'm neither advocating nor condemning the practice here, simply observing that much that we might regard as standard practice in charismatic circles can easily topple over into superstition and the same applies for things that go on in Catholic or other circles.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
@Sipech, there is plenty of theological 'back-up' for a belief in the 'real presence' in the eucharist, however defined - just as there is plenty of theological support for the idea that Christ is somehow present when his people gather in whatever way they choose to do so ...

It's a both/and not an either/or ...

Your misrepresentation of traditions other than your own does you no favours.

As to where we draw the line ...

I'd suggest that a belief in some kind of 'real presence' isn't superstitious. Yet a belief in 'bleeding hosts' and so on is.

I'm not following. In what sense is a belief in the "real presence" not a superstition? Don't just assert things, explain how you are using the term.

quote:
If we want to look for Protestant examples of superstition, I'd suggest that a great deal of 'Word Faith' and the uber-charismatic 'name it and claim it' and Jabez Prayer stuff falls fairly and squarely into the superstitious category.
As indicated above, I have a broad understanding of superstition, but I simply cannot compute how you are using saying that "Word Faith" is fairly and squarely superstition but "Real Presence" is not. I don't understand how you are making this statement.

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Gamaliel
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Sure, it's a bit top-of-the-head of me, I'm posting between doing some work ...

Picking up on an earlier point someone made about 'magic' and doing X, Y and Z to obtain a particular result ...

Well, yes, one could apply that to notions of the 'real presence' - the priest says the magic-words and bingo!

I suppose what I was saying is that a belief in the 'real presence' in the eucharist need not involve some kind of mechanistic understanding of how this 'works' ... and there's been some discussion along those lines over on the eucharist thread.

Whereas with the 'word of faith' and 'name-it-and-claim-it' stuff there's a kind of cause and effect thing going on in a mechanistic or 'magic' kind of way ... You say X, Y or Z - maintain a 'positive confession' or 'agree' or tap into the 'rhema word of God' and so on - yadda yadda yadda - or 'sow in faith' or 'plant seed-faith' and all that malarkey and lo and behold the required results are achieved.

I'll also own to a certain 'snobbery' if we can put it that way, in that various ideas of the real presence have a long and venerable history, whereas the 'word-faith' and 'positive confession' / 'name it and claim it, blab it and grab it' stuff is of recent origin.

I s'pose that's one of the distinctions I was making ie there are plenty of serious theologians and Big S Saints and small s saints etc etc who had or have some kind of concept of the real presence - whereas no serious theologian entertains the 'name it and claim it' gunk.

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quetzalcoatl
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There seem to be various definitions. I like Eutychus' idea of a self-contained item, e.g. black cats. But I notice that in Wiki, that superstition is equated with the supernatural.

It's going to be one of those conjugations, I would think. My beliefs are part of a well-established and theologically grounded system, whereas beliefs about the Nigerian ant god are localized.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:


I suppose what I was saying is that a belief in the 'real presence' in the eucharist need not involve some kind of mechanistic understanding of how this 'works' ... and there's been some discussion along those lines over on the eucharist thread.

I don't think there is any kind of connection between "understanding how this works" (even on a very basic level) and whether or not something is superstition.

I can't see any real reason why you would think that.

quote:

Whereas with the 'word of faith' and 'name-it-and-claim-it' stuff there's a kind of cause and effect thing going on in a mechanistic or 'magic' kind of way ... You say X, Y or Z - maintain a 'positive confession' or 'agree' or tap into the 'rhema word of God' and so on - yadda yadda yadda - or 'sow in faith' or 'plant seed-faith' and all that malarkey and lo and behold the required results are achieved.

I see. That seems to me to be the opposite of what most people understand by superstition. If someone asked someone to explain something and they said "I don't know, it's a mystery - we just have to believe it", I think one is more likely to call that a superstition than the comment "because x y z causes a b c".

But to me those are both superstitions. Both only work in their own terms and it is very difficult to offer any kind of explanation or logic to them from the outside.

quote:
I'll also own to a certain 'snobbery' if we can put it that way, in that various ideas of the real presence have a long and venerable history, whereas the 'word-faith' and 'positive confession' / 'name it and claim it, blab it and grab it' stuff is of recent origin.
I suspect this is closer to the truth. We call "superstitious" those ideas we don't like and want to denigrate and/or rubbish. As wikipedia suggests, the term is usually applied to those things we don't believe - and if one is coming from a particular viewpoint then it is fairly obvious when pointing at the superstitions of others but making excuses for ones own.

To me it makes far more sense to own and embrace the idea that we're all superstitious.

quote:
I s'pose that's one of the distinctions I was making ie there are plenty of serious theologians and Big S Saints and small s saints etc etc who had or have some kind of concept of the real presence - whereas no serious theologian entertains the 'name it and claim it' gunk.
I suspect this is getting too far into the weeds on this thread. I'm not really arguing about the Real Presence as much as commenting on your apparent ability to distinguish between superstition and not-superstition.

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quetzalcoatl
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That seems correct, from mr cheesy. We call things superstition, that we wish to denigrate. But my beliefs, oh no, they are well grounded, practically rational.

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Gamaliel
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Fair enough, mr cheesy.

I'm reminded of a rather cheeky radio-routine my Dad used to repeat on long car journeys. I'm not sure whether it came from Round The Horne or some other vintage radio comedy - but it was a bit risque and ran something like this:

'To the woods, to the woods ...'
'No, no, anything but the woods ...'
'Help, help, I'm only 13!'
'I'm not superstitious ...'

[Biased]

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quetzalcoatl
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The denigration point comes to mind in relation to those atheists, I suppose antitheists, who describe religions as a whole as superstitious or magical. At this point, the discussion usually becomes pointless, since it's an exercise in denigration. You are irrational, whereas we are rational beings. Yawn.

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SusanDoris

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# 12618

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Plenty to think about since I came back from having some photo-copying done! I’ve respolnded to several posts at once here – hope that is all right.
Science can only be considered as a ‘form of superstition’ when the scientific method is not applied properly, or if claims are made which do not stand up to scrutiny via said method.
Brought up in a home where superstitions were seen for what they were, I can honestly say I do not have any. I use an experession like, touch wood’ sometimes, but there is zero belief that any such thing is of any use whatsoever. The only belief that was considered to be true was God.

I see that terroir has been defined and I agree with what Mr C said. The difference between a set of beliefs and superstitions about wines and the supernatural, including the religious definitions of the word, is that all the things which involve the making of wine are real and no-one worships the aspects of wine which are human ideas – not as far as I know anyway!
]
quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
quote:
Originally posted bySusanDoris:
What arguments could they use if they wished to refute Christianity being characterised as a superstition?

I would guess it would all be mixed up with colonialist superiority and a focus on the success of modern medicine vs traditional healing practices, so the question might not arise. I hesitate to speak for them.
Thank you for your answer and your later post about not trying to explain patients’ thoughts.

Re marketing, whether of wine or anything else. Here again, I would say that the difrerence between the marketing of any product or service often relies on superstitions, but if the public believe the superstitions as a result, then they are responsible for their … well, I was going to say gullibility, but the media around them should take much of the blame. Being an optimist, I hope that there is far less gullibility than there used to be.
quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
In short, where I agree with you is the notion that superstition is something that only affects other people, or other "non-scientific" people.

Here again, I think the difference between the product or service being marketed and promoting religions is that there is something observable and testable at the base and religions lack an actual tangible
Something.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:

Science can only be considered as a ‘form of superstition’ when the scientific method is not applied properly, or if claims are made which do not stand up to scrutiny via said method.

I'd politely suggest you have much to learn about the scientific method. This is nothing to do with the proper application of the method and everything to do with the fact that the observations are being filtered through a human mind.

quote:
Brought up in a home where superstitions were seen for what they were, I can honestly say I do not have any. I use an experession like, touch wood’ sometimes, but there is zero belief that any such thing is of any use whatsoever. The only belief that was considered to be true was God.
You are deluding yourself, Susan. I'm sorry, but like it or not you are being influenced by your perceptions and those are strongly associated with superstitions - whether or not you appreciate that they are such.

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TurquoiseTastic

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Something of a tangent but I have always found B.F. Skinner's
"'Superstition' In The Pigeon" interesting.

Food was delivered to the pigeon by a hopper. Whatever the pigeon happened to be doing at this time, it tended to repeat. Skinner proposes that the bird thinks its behaviour is causing the food drop. (Although, because of his behaviourist philosophy, he doesn't like to talk about the bird thinking, only about conditioned behavioural responses).

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
The denigration point comes to mind in relation to those atheists, I suppose antitheists, who describe religions as a whole as superstitious or magical. At this point, the discussion usually becomes pointless, since it's an exercise in denigration. You are irrational, whereas we are rational beings. Yawn.

For atheists to denigrate or push to demean religious beliefs is not a good idea, since these beliefs are so much an integral part of history that they must be studied and understood. Many atheists like myself have been believers in god earlier in their lives but now totally lack such a belief. However, they do understand how and why they believed.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:

Science can only be considered as a ‘form of superstition’ when the scientific method is not applied properly, or if claims are made which do not stand up to scrutiny via said method.

I'd politely suggest you have much to learn about the scientific method. This is nothing to do with the proper application of the method and everything to do with the fact that the observations are being filtered through a human mind.
Okay, I accept that, but could you elaborate a bit, please There is a you tube clip of Richard Feynmann where he
summarises the method.
quote:
Brought up in a home where superstitions were seen for what they were, I can honestly say I do not have any. I use an expression like, touch wood’ sometimes, but there is zero belief that any such thing is of any use whatsoever. The only belief that was considered to be true was God.
You are deluding yourself, Susan. I'm sorry, but like it or not you are being influenced by your perceptions and those are strongly associated with superstitions - whether or not you appreciate that they are such. [/QB][/QUOTE]Can you think of an example of this? Just running through my day so far in my mind, I cannot think of anything that has been influenced by superstition.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseTastic:
Something of a tangent but I have always found B.F. Skinner's
"'Superstition' In The Pigeon" interesting.

Food was delivered to the pigeon by a hopper. Whatever the pigeon happened to be doing at this time, it tended to repeat. Skinner proposes that the bird thinks its behaviour is causing the food drop. (Although, because of his behaviourist philosophy, he doesn't like to talk about the bird thinking, only about conditioned behavioural responses).

I agree.

Superstition (and many compulsive behaviours) happen due to a confusion with causation in our conscious, or even subconscious mind.

Lots of people a]say they are not superstitious but have all sorts of (usually harmless) compulsive behaviours.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
Okay, I accept that, but could you elaborate a bit, please There is a you tube clip of Richard Feynmann where he
summarises the method.

I'm not sure what you want me to say. In order to understand observations, scientists have to use their brains. And brains are, by definition, subject to perception issues. A scientist can try to be objective, but this might not be possible. There has been a lot of work on perception and the inability of even trained individuals to overcome inaccuracies - see work of Lotto and others.

Note - these experiments are very often visual, so you (Susan) might find them hard to understand. But I absolutely believe the systematic biases found in visual experimentation are also present in other ways in things we have not measured.

The idea that a scientist can be human and can at the same time be completely objective is a busted idea.

quote:
Can you think of an example of this? Just running through my day so far in my mind, I cannot think of anything that has been influenced by superstition.
I don't know you, so no. But it isn't possible to move through life without some sort of superstition - if that is defined as a belief in something which is not logical and/or unproven.

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mousethief

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Is there a difference, then, between superstition and magical thinking?

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Is there a difference, then, between superstition and magical thinking?

Not really. "Superstition" and "magical thinking" are just synonyms for belief in things we don't believe in - aren't they?

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Is there a difference, then, between superstition and magical thinking?

It depends what you mean by magical thinking.

A superstition is “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.”

It's about causation and a trust or belief in something which actually causes nothing.

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Moo

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quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseTastic:
Something of a tangent but I have always found B.F. Skinner's
"'Superstition' In The Pigeon" interesting.

Food was delivered to the pigeon by a hopper. Whatever the pigeon happened to be doing at this time, it tended to repeat. Skinner proposes that the bird thinks its behaviour is causing the food drop. (Although, because of his behaviourist philosophy, he doesn't like to talk about the bird thinking, only about conditioned behavioural responses).

It seems to me that the pigeons were not necessarily convinced that their behavior caused the food drop. It might have been more, "I don't have anything else to do, so I might as well do this; it might help."

Moo

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Forthview
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I know also of NEQ having heard that it is unlucky
to cut one's nails on a Sunday. For me it is also on a Friday as well. It's just something I would never do.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:


It's about causation and a trust or belief in something which actually causes nothing.

I don't think it is exactly that. I think it is causation and a trust or belief in something which cannot be (easily) understood outside of its own terms of reference.

How does one measure whether there is an actual cause-and-effect? How do we know that z doesn't happen unless y has first?

Sometimes we're just guessing because the linkage seems so unlikely. Mostly we're saying that z and y are not linked in our understanding and therefore dismiss the idea that they are linked. Very rarely are we actually able to say that this thing doesn't happen, therefore hasn't happened.

For example horoscopes; we might all agree that the day you are born on has no relationship with the auspicious-ness of a certain day or my emotions today. But we can't know that for absolutely certain, there is no way to measure that in a convincing way. Proving a negative is extremely difficult.

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Boogie

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With dogs, they do what works. They most certainly think it through and choose their behaviours - and choose what works.

The way we manipulate our training may make it look like superstition - but it isn't, it's manipulating the environment to confuse the causes.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
With dogs, they do what works. They most certainly think it through and choose their behaviours - and choose what works.

The way we manipulate our training may make it look like superstition - but it isn't, it's manipulating the environment to confuse the causes.

I'd say this is exactly what superstition is - doing something that works.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:


It's about causation and a trust or belief in something which actually causes nothing.

I don't think it is exactly that. I think it is causation and a trust or belief in something which cannot be (easily) understood outside of its own terms of reference.

How does one measure whether there is an actual cause-and-effect? How do we know that z doesn't happen unless y has first?

Sometimes we're just guessing because the linkage seems so unlikely. Mostly we're saying that z and y are not linked in our understanding and therefore dismiss the idea that they are linked. Very rarely are we actually able to say that this thing doesn't happen, therefore hasn't happened.

For example horoscopes; we might all agree that the day you are born on has no relationship with the auspicious-ness of a certain day or my emotions today. But we can't know that for absolutely certain, there is no way to measure that in a convincing way. Proving a negative is extremely difficult.

Agreed. And that's one reason why OCD is such a difficult thing to deal with.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
With dogs, they do what works. They most certainly think it through and choose their behaviours - and choose what works.

The way we manipulate our training may make it look like superstition - but it isn't, it's manipulating the environment to confuse the causes.

I'd say this is exactly what superstition is - doing something that works.
Throwing salt over the shoulder to bring good fortune works?

The dog does the behaviour and gets the reward. That's most certainly not how superstition works. The rewards are amorphous at best.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Throwing salt over the shoulder to bring good fortune works?

As you say, someone with OCD may well link two things together, and it is very hard to prove otherwise.

quote:
The dog does the behaviour and gets the reward. That's most certainly not how superstition works. The rewards are amorphous at best.
Mmm. That's a very interesting point. Dogs are particularly adept at understanding their position within a hierarchy and working out what they need to do to gain a reward.

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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