Indeed, it's much like the "What harm does it do to believe in God?" (Ask the last group that drank the Kool-Aid...) For the record, Bohr is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, but there he is, with a freakin' horseshoe hanging on the wall over his desk. And why? Even he isn't sure...
Visiting Scientist: Surely you don't believe that horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, Professor Bohr?
Bohr: I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not! How can one argue with such logic?
We humans are a generally stupid species, for all of our technological innovations and such--perhaps our one saving grace (perpetual curse?) being we are just smart enough to know how stupid we are without being quite smart enough to know how to not be so stupid. Why, for instance, do we knock on wood? Call off on Friday the 13th? Expect people to act just a tad crazier under a full moon? Worship gods? Pray to angels?
Did you know that, while wearing a seat belt has been known to save more lives in the drivers' seat of a moving vehicle, the number of pedestrians and cyclists who die increases in areas where seat-belt wearing is mandatory? Honestly! Any lives "saved" through the use of seat belts has been negated by the fact that, since the drivers feel more secure in the automobile, they in fact drive more recklessly than they had previous to being forced to wear such a safety device! But so many people believe that seat belts save lives that we thus made a law saying you must wear one, even though as a result more people will now die--just on the other side of the wheel... Gotta love the irony there.
Remember back in the 80s when we were all told that heavy rock music stars actually recorded Satan speaking backwards on their records? (How many of you just wondered what the heck a "record" was?) People by the hundreds threw out thousands of dollars worth of albums so that their children wouldn't be influenced by the evil Satanic speech coming from their record players (as if!!). Most of these songs you can now hear on any commercial-filled yet Satan-free "classic rock" or "easy listening" station.
Now, somewhere between the unreasonable panic over swine flu and the even more unreasonable panic over the thought of terrorists using a cargo container to sneak in a nuclear bomb (as if...), one wonders how the term "common sense" ever came to be coined when it's obvious so many people lack the very stuff. (Perhaps "common sense" is just one of those mythical things, like demons, gremlins, and luck dragons...? Often mentioned, never seen...?) Yet for sense to be "common" (in that, every one is supposed to have it), one has to simply observe how many buildings do NOT have a 13th floor; how many people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; how many actually stop and change their path to avoid going under the ladder (I actually think a painter made this one up just to prevent himself from getting nervous up there watching all those doofs go under him!). What is it about irrational and illogical beliefs that so many refuse to give them up?
Could it all actually be for shits and giggles? Somehow I doubt this...
Most people know the principle that any action causes an equal and opposite reaction. (Okay,maybe you don't, just google it and it's won't be long til you're all caught up.) We step on a loose rock and lose our balance, we quickly form quite a few beliefs:
- Falling hurts
- Loose rocks cause falling
- Loose rocks are dangerous
- Loose rocks are to be avoided whenever possible
But then think about "Break a leg!" To wish an actor or performer "Good luck!" is to jinx them--why? Because somewhere along the way, a few to many people were wished "good luck" before their performance and proceeded bomb in front of an audience. There's no direct correlation between these spoken words of "good luck" and bombing your rendition of "Baby Got Back!" (one wonders how many contestants on American Idol have been inadvertently wished "good luck" before Simon ripped their hearts out with a toothpick). But our minds do make that correlation for no good reason. It's illogical, irrational, very unsound, and if you based your thesis for graduating on such a premise, they'd revoke your right to say anything at all about anything afterward! We silly, stupid humans do this sort of thing all the time!
How many of us know rationally that knocking on wood doesn't do anything, yet, once we say something out loud, there go our knuckles, banging out a River Dance of the fingers! We know that those random numbers we picked at 2:00 pm are just as unlikely to be winners at 8:55 pm, yet we are 90 percent more likely to be unwilling to trade our lottery ticket for another ticket of equally random, equally chance of winning numbers at 8:55 then we were at 2:00... Why? Who knows... Because we're stupid. We believe prayer actually does something... We believe standing in the rain causes a cold... We believe all sorts of crazy, stupid things...
With a little luck, here's hoping this post causes you all to stop and think before you start knuckling out the Star Spangled Banner...
As if "luck" has anything to do with it...