superstitions and science

Superstitions are among issues that have long been perceived to have some unrevealed secrets as their origins.

With the progress of science and scientific methods, some old superstitions have faded away for not having any element of reality, while some others are still subjects of debate. The main question is how real superstitions are. Are they just a product of imagination having its roots in the ancient era or do they have any reasonable physical theories behind them?

In general, a superstition is defined as an irrational idea or belief originating from the ignorance or fear from the unknown. Every superstition is somehow linked to a hidden and unseen energy and force influenced by some objects or human rituals. Superstition in its broadest meanings also includes such subject issues as witchery, magic or sorcery. For example, from our early childhood, we have heard that anyone facing the passing of a black cat will eventually face a bad luck. Another famous superstition is the fallacy of number 13. The number 13 is believed by many to result in unlucky events. Numerous reasons are cited to support the ideas, including:

  • The presence of 13 apostles at the Christ’s last supper. The 13th person, i.e., Judas was the person who betrayed Jesus.
  • Friday, October 13th was the date of the assassination of Knights Templar.
  • Another theory is that kids become teenagers at the age of 13.

Besides the above famous superstitions, there are many others, some of which are the following:

The misfortune of number 23 and the paranoia it has created. Although less know, number 23 is also a source of fear for the following coincidence:

  • The number of human chromosomes is 23
  • The inclination of the Earth’s axis relative to the plane of its rotation around the sun is 23.5o

Passing of a black cat on your way may lead to a bad luck for you.

Giving your gloves as a gift to someone may lead to unfortunate future for him.

Spilling salt and the misfortune it may bring for you. Even more superstitious is the belief that it would be an invitation for evil to get in!

Although none of these ideas have any ration behind this common belief, the idea is so deep rooted that it has spread to other cultures and even non-religious people.

Interestingly, superstitions are not necessarily referring to something leading to a bad fate. For example, in many cultures, crossing of fingers is believed to bring good luck. Such objects as horseshoes and rabbit’s feet, among many others, are commonly believed to bring good fortune. The other example is the good luck attributed to the number 7. This belief has many reasons behind it, including the occasional references to this number in the Bible.

But the fact is whether they are believed by many to result in a negative or positive fortune, none of them has any scientific support for their claim other than old fallacies that have been transferred from generation to generation. Yet, their psychological impact over thousands of years has been so profound that they are somehow recognized by the scientific community. For example, despite its seemingly irrational idea, scientists have debated over the fear of number 13 and for now, it has been categorized as an actual phobia!

Quantum mechanics and superstitions

So much about baseless superstitions, but what about those superstitions that claim to have strong scientific support? The question may be paraphrased as follows, are there any scientific thought or theories that may indeed be the modern version of old superstitions in our age? The idea may seem somehow contradictory as scientific theories can be tested and either accepted or rejected by the scientists who work for the deeper understanding of the laws of nature. For example, Quantum physics that is sometimes regarded as a link between science and superstition is a very well established field of science with testable and definite predictions exactly like Newton’s classical mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Einstein’s theory of relativity made to predictions at odd with the classical view of time and space, i.e., time dilation and length contraction. However, both could be tested and it did not take too much of time to verify the accuracy of predictions. So there was no room for any supernatural belief about them.

Yet, there is still some support for such ideas. Modern superstitions use modern science and modern physics for enhancing of nonscientific, or better to say, anti-scientific beliefs. Such ideas are fed from two tentacles, one stretching into the very old theosophical ideas of the Far East while the other extending to the heart of the science and technology of the West.


Although, there have  been some attempts to mix quantum physics with fantasy stuff as a proof of superstitions, yet none of these ideas seem to have gained a scientific proof. It is true that quantum physics and quantum mechanics have suggested many unpredictable results, some of which being odd from our previous experience’s perspective, but the method of science has not changed at any point. Science is modeling based, experimentation, and again refined modeling and refined experimentation until an acceptable theory is reached. Science has nothing to do with “supernatural” realities or superstitions. Those “superstitions” that receive scientific support, can no longer be regarded as superstitions and they should be categorized as phenomena with rational scientific interpretation.


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Bob Pershing

I started writing articles as an amateur journalist since I was a high school student. My articles cover stories for children magazines. But before launching my career as a journalist, I earned my MS in Physics and electrical engineering and conducted research in radar communication. Owing to my previous background and my strong interest in writing articles and putting a human face on groundbreaking stories about science, technology, health and sustainability, I decided to work as a part-time freelance journalist, writing articles in English, French and Arabic media. I also enjoy drawing caricatures which I normally send them to French media. While I am at home I love to solve mathematics and play soccer. I live in UK.