Superstitions vs Science

Sounds like cliche, but all day long I’ve been thinking about how science and technology changed the way we think and regard things. Everyday I work with lasers and x-rays and all that “hi-tech” stuff, subjecting each hypothesis to rigorous experimentation and careful measurements. This is my world, my own sphere where observations can be made by controlling and varying parameters. But for me science is more than a subject; it is a way of life. Thus it is inevitable for me to “think” science in virtually every aspect of my existence. Perhaps the very reason why I am such a skeptic.

An agent to fend off SUDS?

Imagine my surprise, for example, when somebody told me that the reason why she kept a glass of water near her bed was because she believes that this was a charm against “Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome” or what we Filipinos call “bangungot.” Sometimes bangungot is also used to refer to incidents where one becomes gripped by bad dreams or nightmares and could not seem to wake up. What powers the water held, I could only guess. Perhaps it may come in handy when the person in question undergoes bangungot and could not wake up – just splash the water on his or her face. Politely I suggested that we put this to test by removing the glass of water and see if she gets any bangungot or bad dreams. Or the one time when my mother told me not to go back to the house when we were already packed into the car and ready to leave for the airport. “Masama raw.” As to why, or how, it could be bad for me to go back and retrieve that which I forgot to bring with me, I could only wonder. Maybe I’ll trip along the way or maybe I’ll forget to re-lock the door on the way out. That would be the real disasters. But I believe that most superstitions can be easily resolved by simple tests. Science works that way. The problem with superstitions and the propagation of such beliefs or any kind of faith is that the hits are noted, not the misses. In the provinces, such beliefs still hold strong and most people could not be dissuaded otherwise. “Sabi raw ng matatanda…” and so on and so forth.

Granted, science alone cannot explain everything, as with so many matters in this world. Maybe some superstitions have grains of wisdom in them, maybe not. But therein lies the challenge – that of breaking free from long-held bonds of thought through careful rational analysis.

Am I right? Only one way to find out. Prove me wrong.

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One Response to Superstitions vs Science

  1. Anonymous says:

    Your glass-beside-the-bed anecdote reminds me of a humorous James Thurber tale, “The Night the Bed Fell” (http://english.glendale.cc.ca.us/bedfell.html).

    I also find interesting that while you seem to favor science in this post, you seem to lean towards creationism in your other mini-essay “Ponderings on the Evolution vs Creation Debate”.

    But isn’t religion (and hence the creation tale) just another kind of superstition?

    This is a nice blog, by the way. Nice pictures, too.

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