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Explanations > Beliefs > Superstition

Science and metaphysics | Superstition | Personality | So what?


Superstition is a strange thing, where we believe in things that we may simultaneously also not believe.

Science and metaphysics

The general principle by which many live is one of scientific knowledge. If science has proved and approved something, then we take it as truth. Scientists in particular adhere to this and consider anything that cannot be proven or disproven as 'metaphysics' and either beneath contempt or at least of little practical interest.

Others adhere to beliefs of various kinds that cannot be proven but which help give meaning to their lives.


A classic view of superstition is the existence of rituals and behaviors that must be adhered to lest bad luck befall. Hence actors do not mention the play named 'Macbeth' in the theater (it is 'The Scottish Play'), children do not step on the cracks in the pavement (lest the bears come out to get them), people cross their fingers for luck and so on. In general, superstition is any unfounded belief that requires some action.

Superstition is a curious domain and many who believe in metaphysical things do not consider themselves superstitious, most notably those with religious beliefs. This, of course, is dangerous territory and highlights the uneven nature of belief. It also implies that superstition is somehow bad or wrong, whereas this is in fact based on a further belief about what we 'should' believe (who says?).


Superstition is a very human thing, where some of us tend more to believe in external and mysterious rules and forces. The highly superstitious person believes more in the powers of fate and luck, and that they can only influence these through strict ritual. The non-superstitious person, on the other hand, knows they are governed only by the laws of nature and that everything else is a choice.

We can characterize people into several general categories:

  • the strict non-believer in the non-scientific
  • the religious scientist
  • the lightly superstitious
  • the moderately superstitious
  • the strongly superstitious

Underlying these or in consequence of them is the need for a sense of control. Scientifically-oriented people know that, beyond the laws of nature, they are in charge of their lives. The religious cede control to an all-powerful and (hopefully) caring God. The superstitious trust in fate and cross their fingers to bring more luck.

So what?

Understand the other person and how they tend to approach facts, proof, luck and fate. If they are scientifically oriented, then show cause and effect and prove what you want them to believe. If they are more superstitious, point to external forces and the need for ritual.

See also

Blog: new year, tradition and superstition


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