On Science, Religion, Lucky Numbers, and our Need to Link Every Unassociated Thing

On Science, Religion, Lucky Numbers, and our Need to Link Every Unassociated Thing

It’s in human nature to subconsciously beat our brains out to make weird connections between unfamiliar people, things and unrelated events before trying to come up with a logical explanation to prove what our minds had falsely linked long before. We all do this as a means of gaining familiarity towards the unknown, as once we make connections that could allegedly explain the scary, the uncertain unknown in any way, our fear becomes beatable, bearable, predictable and later, even prone to manipulation for some to rule others.

When science was nonexistent or still taking its baby steps, we considered lightnings and thunderbolts to be the doings of an angry god punishing us and when we reacted in any meaningless way out of fear and sheer panic, we believed our actions were to take credit in stopping a meteorological event which would have ceased by doing nothing anyway. Soon after, we began performing meaningless rituals, like prayers, dancing and even appointed the first lightning banishers as shamans or wise men to protect our wellbeing in the times of danger. Centuries passed, and science gradually evolved to explain the mysteries of our world, but we still haven’t changed at our core. Most of us still believe a lucky shirt worn on a day expected to turn out bad would help us into changing it for the better. How else could the link between a piece of manmade fabric and a successful job interview be explained other than the shirt being a lucky shirt! The truth simply lies on ‘believing’ being the key that turns the bad day into a good one, but we also need a reference point to do so… to boost our self confidence… to feel smart… to have power upon others… And that’s where the shirt comes in and our logic goes out.

On second thought, don’t wear your lucky shirt to a job interview if it looks like this!

It’s not just lucky objects that dictate our actions in such ways. Sometimes, it’s lucky numbers that decide our fate from picking out a wedding day to jotting them down as the next hopefully winning powerball (lottery) number. How some numbers come to be lucky for us isn’t a mystery either; it has the same working principle as the lucky shirt. When we come across a formerly insignificant figure, and something good happens, the incoherent connection is already up and running in our minds. It’s no wonder that almost nobody’s lucky number is 0 as we don’t see it around much! There are no days in a month starting with a zero, nor there are house numbers we run into in our daily lives, etc. with just a plain old zero. The number ‘0’ is still lucky on its own account, as it’s not labeled as an ‘unlucky’ numeral like the unfortunate ’13’, where our malfunctioning reasoning skills took over once more! The clerical error of an early translator resulted in the omittance of the thirteenth line (law) in the Code of Hammurabi, was one of the incidents tagging the figure as ‘bad’, or ‘unlucky’. And, when two different dinner parties in ancient lore, included a thirteenth guest, the unjust link between the number and it being bad solidified: Judas betrayed Jesus after showing up as the thirteenth guest in the Last Supper and the appearance of Loki (he was evil) in Valhalla as the thirteenth entity at a dinner party, sealed the fate of the number 13. It is surprising how ancient lore still has a tight grip on our reasoning skills centuries later.

Sometimes one more is too much!

Speaking of lore, just think how religion evolved from worshipping multiple, more vicious gods derived from nature to its current form of believing in a single, invisible higher power! It’s just that our brains are wired to create links where there are none when we encounter things we can’t explain. One of the mysteries we would never be able to solve, which is what happens when we die is also explained by the concepts of heaven and hell. Do good deeds in life, and you’ll drink wine from the rivers of a breathtaking garden, do bad deeds and you’ll burn for eternity with no cable TV. Wait! Cable TV? There can’t be that in hell, or at least not according to the holy books. Heaven and hell were depicted centuries ago and their appearance seem to have not changed at all, even today. Not one bit. Why? Because the lore says so! And, this happens in the modern world where a five-year-old non-fiction book is deemed as outdated! For me, there’s no life after death, but death after life has been proven. However, it feels good, even for me, to fantasize about an immortal life in a beautiful garden upon retirement from life.

My heaven would be less wild animals, more books and a working wi-fi

Lastly, we love our built-in crooked reasoning so much that we started teaching our ‘linking the unrelated’ method to animals, such as monkeys pushing buttons to get food. Poor primates must be thinking hard to figure out the link between a magic button and a bunch of bananas! Or are they?

For the majority of us, most things we encounter in life are still mysteries. Let them be, unless we can explain the unknown by science.

Archaeology of the Present

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Imagine our current civilization ended up in flames; totally wiped out… a few remaining survivors of the human kind (possibly stripped of all advanced technological knowledge and know-how) started all over from scratch.
In a millennium, every advancement is already long forgotten and our civilization at present is regarded as an ancient one, pretty much like ancient Egypt in our era.
The new civilization follows more or less a similar path as ours to flourish. However, some things have never been invented or some ideas have never been thought of. At least, they invent the notion of archaeology; digging up the past (and trying to uncover our secrets).
Let’s do a thought experiment…
It’s the year 2116; a thousand years from now and the future archaeologists uncover the following:
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1. The personal library of a sci-fi enthusiast, which survived a millennium in a nuclear shelter/bunker. All the books that survived are works of fiction…about intergalactic wars, time travel, aliens, etc… and after decades of hard work, they are able to crack the code of our language. What would they think? Would they regard them as works of fiction or consider them as ancient history? We seem to regard every written record of ancient civilizations as real…
2. An email message printed on a browned out paper (actually the paper browned out much later :), containing letters of the alphabet as well as characters like @,#,_,&,* and :). (From the same library mentioned above) Would they combine these symbols into our ancient language and overthink about their function?
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3. A dozen autographed baseball bats by some of the baseball idols of our era dug out from the ruins of a sports shop. Luckily, the UV coating on the bats preserved the signatures from smearing out through ages. What would a baseball bat suggest to a culture who has not invented the concept of sports (for entertainment)? Perhaps, a primitive weapon of war; inscribed with an ancient god’s name to channel divine power to the wielder? How about the sports shop? Would the future archaeologists be happy that they unearthed an ancient armory?
4. A huge, curvy water slide in an abandoned amusement park: An aqueduct?
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5  A bowling ball… Let me be more specific: A size 14, shiny, purple bowling ball. Hmmm… What are the three holes for? For fingers? But why three? Would they think that ancient humans had two less fingers? Oh wait! That’s how we depict some aliens!!!
The moral of this article?
No matter what your intentions are (when you invent or create something), you will most likely to be misunderstood …

The colors of colors

What color is the sky?

It’s light blue when clear and cloudless…

Bright red at sun dawn…

A different shade of orange at sunset…

Pitch black with tiny bright white dots at night…

White when it snows…

And even green when northern lights make an appearence in the Arctic night…

How about trees? Do they have green leaves and a brown body? Or is it something we were taught in our infancy?

Nature doesn’t have one color per each creation. There are endless color combinations there but do we lack the vocabulary to describe each hue?

Homer described honey as green, and sea as the color of champagne. The words for color he used in his works never got more various than a simple black and white mentioned hundreds of times, with a tad of green and red appearing once or twice. Was he colorblind? Can honey be green? Can seas be the color of champagne? The color blue was not mentioned even once in his works. Since it was never mentioned that he was criticized about how he perceived colors in his time, should we assume that the whole ancient Greek population was incapable of distinguishing between colors?

Or are we still colorblind in the modern era in such a way that we have compound nouns that do not represent the colors of that we have in mind; is white wine, white? Are blackberries, black? Even a blackeye isn’t black.

Is it the evolution of the human eye or the creation of synthetic colors that created this confusion?

For more detailed insight, I recommend you read the first chapter of “Through the Language Glass” by Guy Deutscher…

It changed my perception of perception.