Sunday, July 4, 2010

Definitions As Opposed To...!

Lately, whenever I decide to look up the definition of a particularly popular word, I almost feel like I'm looking backstage at a magic show and finding out that what looked impressive and shocking actually relies on a pretty simple gimmick.

In this case, I decided to look up the wikipedia entry for superstition. I mean, I use this word a lot myself. I hear all kinds of people bitching about the problems of superstition. Superstition holds back science, are religions are superstition, atheists are more superstitious than theists, etc. So what's it mean?

If the wiki's right, superstition essentially boils down to this: "Believing something that is not true and for which there's no good reason to believe." Naturally, they try to associate it with 'religion' as much as possible, but then you're back to trying to figure out what religion is, ie, square one.

By those lights, everyone thinks everyone else is superstitious, most likely. Creationists, ID proponents and Darwin skeptics think "darwinists" are superstitious. Theists think atheists are superstitious. A fair chunk of 'science', defunct and current alike, can be argued as superstitious. And just about every philosophical claim in town can be argued as the same.

Superstition melts away from this certain and actual "thing", this historical problem, after reading what the word means. Instead it becomes a kind of rhetorical, context-sensitive belief that is tremendously sensitive to subjective beliefs and background assumptions. At least, so it seems when I read up on it.

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