Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book: Supersense by Bruce Hood

While I didn't make it to the end of Supersense - it rambled on a little too much for my liking - I did at least take away a valuable lesson: that we all harbour some level of superstitious beliefs, holding the rational and non-rational side by side as we go about our business.

Bruce Hood hypothesises that culture and religion capitalise on our inclination to infer hidden dimensions to reality and while these beliefs will evolve over a person's lifetime, all of us hold these beliefs to differing extents. For example, I tend to think of myself as a pretty cold rationalist for the most part, but would still feel a bit weird throwing darts at a picture of a baby's face, or wearing a murderer's cardigan. And I don't think I could live in a house where somebody has been murdered in the recent past. Some logical reasoning can help to explain some of these inclinations, but I know for sure that some of the feeling is also down to 'it just doesn't feel right' supersense, which has no logic supporting it. Others believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, evil omens, homeopathy, and lots of other general superstitions such not walking under a ladder or knocking on wood for good luck.  On the supernatural side of things, beliefs may stem from religion (angels, jinn, god, the devil) but can also be secular (e.g. ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance). One way or another, it's all magical thinking in the sense that it isn't properly evidence backed or supported by natural laws as we currently understand them, and yet such thinking continues to pervade our apparently 'Enlightened' minds.With human minds instinctively geared to seek causes for all events, it is no surprise that lots of superstitious beliefs permeate the modern world (think of all the little superstitious rituals of sports stars), and as much as we may wish this wasn't the case, these beliefs are likely to be with us for some time yet.


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