The Power of Myth & Culture

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Dave Allen
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 01:38 pm
@Khethil,
I suggest dictionary.com as a first stop.

Honestly, forgive the shortness, but do you really not know?

Saying "Bless You" because you believe it will help alleviate illness as and of itself - a superstition. A belief without much evidence or rationale. A ritual or incantation to ward off bad luck or unverified, unproven repurcussions (often in the face of contrary evidence).

Saying "Bless You" because you think it a polite way to show some modicum of care and concern - a pleasantry. No necessary implication of a belief in the absence of evidence, mostly a knee-jerk social response, perhaps done in the hope of strengthening bonds or currying favour.

Raping a virgin to cure oneself of AIDS - a superstition.

Saying "Hello" - a pleasantry.

Bemoaning or celebrating your luck due to an encounter with a black feline - a superstition.

Giving a brief wave to an aquaintance - a pleasantry.

Abstaining from onanism because you think it will cause you to go blind - a superstition.

Abstaining from onanism because you are visiting your grandparents - a pleasantry.

And so on...
 
Aedes
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 02:19 pm
@Khethil,
Another benign and perhaps useful (but double edged) form of superstition is that which you see in baseball players. They play so many games, and can be so streaky, that you often see players who wear the same hat for a whole season, or go through some weird little ritual before batting, or who will always jump over the baseline when going on or off the field.

The reason this kind of superstition may be helpful is that it internalizes the player's locus of control, and it may help them perform with more consistency and / or confidence.

---------- Post added at 04:22 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:19 PM ----------

Dave Allen;70391 wrote:
Raping a virgin to cure oneself of AIDS - a superstition.
How do you know it's a superstition? In some African countries literacy among males is 30% and among females half that. And literacy certainly seldom implies more than secondary school, but usually is just primary school.

My point is that when people are poorly educated, when they have no access to legitimate information, when they have no resources to even learn what is plausible or not, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss this tragic behavior as a superstition.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 02:37 pm
@Khethil,
In terms of dictionary definition superstition is:[LIST=1]
[*]An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.
[*][LIST=1]
[*]A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.
[*]A fearful or abject state of mind resulting from such ignorance or irrationality.
[*]Idolatry.
[/LIST]
[/LIST][Middle English supersticion, from Old French superstition, from Latin superstitiō, superstitiōn-, from superstes, superstit-, standing over; see stā- in Indo-European roots.]


It strikes me that the belief that raping a virgin cures one of AIDS is a superstition. Whether the absence of a decent education is what results in the irrationality, or whether tribal folklore actively teaches the practice - the act is done in ignorance of the facts about the disease and is contrary to understanding of the spread and treatment of AIDS (as I'm aware you well know).

By calling the behaviour a superstition I don't see how I am dismissing it or downplaying it's seriousness. I think any superstitions can be dangerous if taken too far, and that this is clearly an extremely dangerous (not to mention cruel, and counter-productive for both victim and perpetrator) practice as the result of an irrational belief that a certain act will result in a cure.

I fail to see how superstition isn't a highly apt word.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 02:55 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;70391 wrote:

Honestly, forgive the shortness, but do you really not know?


Sure, I can differentiate between the two. But I can also see a great deal of overlap, that gray area. I asked you what the difference was in order to get your opinion of the matter. Inquiry does not imply ignorance, only curiosity.

Dave Allen;70391 wrote:
Saying "Bless You" because you think it a polite way to show some modicum of care and concern - a pleasantry. No necessary implication of a belief in the absence of evidence, mostly a knee-jerk social response, perhaps done in the hope of strengthening bonds or currying favour.


Your mentioning of "knee-jerk" is crucial. Knee-jerk responses are not acted out due to evidence supported belief; they are natural responses. Superstition is also a natural response in humans.

Saying bless you is a pleasantry, but also a superstition. Saying bless you will not improve the health, yet we continue to say this incantation in context as if it would do such a thing. Our use of the phrase implies causation - as if the phrase aided recovery. This is the gray area.

In any case, the point remains: superstition is not inherently harmful or dangerous.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 03:19 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;70409 wrote:
Your mentioning of "knee-jerk" is crucial. Knee-jerk responses are not acted out due to evidence supported belief; they are natural responses. Superstition is also a natural response in humans.

My use of knee-jerk was a misnomer. I mean it's a largely thoughtless response, not an instinctive one. I think it muddles the waters to confuse a nervous response (which may be of no use to us) with a tradition.

Not all natural responses or conditions are to our benefit, when irrational beliefs lead to the spread of disease I think it's wise to consider not holding to them.

Quote:
Saying bless you is a pleasantry, but also a superstition.

I don't think it's not a case of "also", it's a case of "also, either and or".

Saying bless you and thinking it has an effect on health is a superstition. If I say bless you to someone just because I think it's polite it doesn't carry any baggage of belief beyond the belief that it's polite, and there is plenty of evidence for what is considered by the gestalt as polite.

If I say the Lord's Prayer in the belief that God will hear and possibly heed it - it would be a superstition.

If I say the Lord's Prayer because I'm an actor in a play and the script requires I say it it's not a superstition - it's not burdened with belief.

Quote:
Saying bless you will not improve the health, yet we continue to say this incantation in context as if it would do such a thing. Our use of the phrase implies causation - as if the phrase aided recovery. This is the gray area.

It's only a grey area if you can't reconcile your actions to your rationale - which I think I can do in the case of saying bless you. I do not think blessing someone aids recovery, I just think its 'a nice thing' to say to someone who is ill.

Unless it isn't a nice thing to say then that particular belief isn't a superstition. It strikes me as rational to think a certain degree of politeness is efficatious to people's well-being. However, I don't think it's any substitute for medical care to the seriously ill.

If I thought it did aid recovery as well as medical treatment I thinks it's easy to see how it could become a dangerous act - because it does not do so, and to believe it does might instigate complacency.

Quote:
In any case, the point remains: superstition is not inherently harmful or dangerous.

It is inherantly harmful for people with AIDS to rape people because they believe in the superstition that doing so cures the disease.

Are all superstitious beliefs harmful? No. But I think they all carry the potential to be. Even the relatively benign example of saying bless you in the apparent belief that it aids recovery.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 03:33 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;70413 wrote:
My use of knee-jerk was a misnomer. I mean it's a largely thoughtless response, not an instinctive one.


Exactly: a thoughtless response.

Dave Allen;70413 wrote:
Not all natural responses or conditions are to our benefit, when irrational beliefs lead to the spread of disease I think it's wise to consider not holding to them.


Sure, I agree, but it would also be inaccurate to say that no natural responses are for our own benefit.

Dave Allen;70413 wrote:
It's only a grey area if you can't reconcile your actions to your rationale


In any given individual case, perhaps, but taken as a larger cultural custom the gray area is evident.

Dave Allen;70413 wrote:
It is inherantly harmful for people with AIDS to rape people because they believe in the superstition that doing so cures the disease.


Sure, rape is inherently harmful. But one instance, even a billion instances, of harmful superstition in no way shows superstition to be inherently harmful.

Dave Allen;70413 wrote:
Are all superstitious beliefs harmful? No.


There's agreement, then.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 04:34 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;70374 wrote:
Hue-man: sighting examples of superstition that are dangerous will in no way prove that all superstition is dangerous. Besides, no one is arguing that superstition cannot be dangerous.


I'm not saying that all superstition is dangerous, Didymos. I already said that I wasn't arguing that because "some A's are X, therefore all A's are X". I don't believe that your intent is to hangman me, so please understand that that's not my argument. I'm saying that superstition has a greater potential for bad consequences, and that's what makes it a vice. That's what happens when your beliefs are based on fear instead of reason.

Didymos Thomas;70374 wrote:
Saying "bless you" is plaque superstition and survives to this day. Aedes is right, these things bring us closer together, they are ways to express our concern for one another. In what way does this expression of concern conflict with virtue? Explain how this expression of concern "don't help anything".


I thought that you weren't defending superstition. Saying bless you is not necessarily an example of superstition, as I and Dave have pointed out. My mother and father always taught me that you say "bless you" because it's common courtesy. The saying may have stemmed from a superstition, but it doesn't necessarily entail superstition, and the vast majority of people just look at it as common courtesy. We don't need bad reasons to say good things.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 05:03 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;70405 wrote:
It strikes me that the belief that raping a virgin cures one of AIDS is a superstition. Whether the absence of a decent education is what results in the irrationality, or whether tribal folklore actively teaches the practice - the act is done in ignorance of the facts about the disease and is contrary to understanding of the spread and treatment of AIDS (as I'm aware you well know).
It may not be irrational to them. It's only irrational to those who know better. Please tell me that you don't think that an act must be "superstition" if it appears irrational from an outside judge...

---------- Post added at 07:06 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:03 PM ----------

Dave Allen;70413 wrote:
It is inherantly harmful for people with AIDS to rape people because they believe in the superstition that doing so cures the disease.
No... they believe in the notion that doing so cures the disease. This is different than tossing salt over your left shoulder or finding a four leaf clover. There is a lot of belief in folk remedies in Africa -- and I would not call them superstition.
 
salima
 
Reply Fri 19 Jun, 2009 06:41 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;70430 wrote:
It may not be irrational to them. It's only irrational to those who know better. Please tell me that you don't think that an act must be "superstition" if it appears irrational from an outside judge...

---------- Post added at 07:06 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:03 PM ----------

No... they believe in the notion that doing so cures the disease. This is different than tossing salt over your left shoulder or finding a four leaf clover. There is a lot of belief in folk remedies in Africa -- and I would not call them superstition.


hi paul-
isnt rationality one of the few things that is supposed to be a constant? i mean across the board in any context, the thinking is either rational or is not? how could anyone come to this conclusion as a consequence of rational thought? i mean there can be an outside judge, right?

and of course it is not logical to assume that all things that are not rational are superstition. the more i think about it, the word superstition doesnt even fit this particular belief-i wouldnt want to label it as a part of anyone's culture either. i would just call it a very big mistake in belief-an error in thinking, tantamount ignorance, a crime against humanity, an act of desperation-any number of other things, but superstition seems not to be apt. again semantics....

i also wonder if it is simply a case of a mistaken home remedy...iin the case of using rape of a virgin to try and cure aids, i wonder what else might have prompted such a practice-rather than ignorance could there have been any political motivation for its origination?

for instance there are groups here that fight to prevent 'cow slaughter' and it is their political banner-they would want to continue the belief that cows are gods so that they can be a champion to a particular vote bank. i am only giving an example here, but what i am wondering is could it be to anyone's advantage in africa to propagate such a belief as the OP describes?

---------- Post added at 06:14 AM ---------- Previous post was at 06:11 AM ----------

how long does it take for people to recognize that a particular 'cure' doesnt work? i think by now if this practice had become widespread that people would notice the person who has aids eventually dies from it and the victim develops it. even an illiterate person should surely see the logic here and abandon the idea...dont you think so? that is another reason why i wonder if someone isnt perpetuating the idea deliberately.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Sat 20 Jun, 2009 01:41 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;70430 wrote:
It may not be irrational to them. It's only irrational to those who know better. Please tell me that you don't think that an act must be "superstition" if it appears irrational from an outside judge...
I think that depends on the quality of the judgement.

Who is to say what is and isn't irrational - he who is best informed of the facts, I would say. Do I think I'm that man? That would be hugely arrogant of me - but if I thought it might be heeded I might risk that arrogance if faced with a man who swore by the AIDS myth.

Quote:
No... they believe in the notion that doing so cures the disease.
I don't quite understand the distinction. In this case is the superstition itself not a notion? Aren't all superstitions notions?

I don't think superstitions and traditions are the same thing, though some traditions might well have their root in superstitions.

Quote:
This is different than tossing salt over your left shoulder or finding a four leaf clover.
I agree, in terms of severity. However, tossing salt over one's shoulder in the belief that it will grant you good auspices has, at heart, a common quality with raping a virgin in the belief that it cures disease.

Quote:
There is a lot of belief in folk remedies in Africa -- and I would not call them superstition.

Not at all. I'm quite sure a lot of traditional medicine is efficatious, or that certain ritual acts could have fringe benefits.
 
Caroline
 
Reply Sat 20 Jun, 2009 01:50 pm
@Khethil,
Bless you comes from believing that the soul could escape through the nose when you sneezed so people said bless you to counteract this belief.
Some cultures/religions believe that a woman should not die a virgin and women/girls have been raped before they have been executed.
 
xris
 
Reply Sat 20 Jun, 2009 02:07 pm
@Caroline,
If you live in fear of the darkness a clean white sheet will protect you from the mad axe man.Pull it over your head and he will not dare attack you.
We with effort could educate those who believe in simple remedies but you all ignore the biggest myths that would need a revolution to destroy them.
 
 

 
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