SUPERSTITIOUS SEVEN

by CEVDP

Lucky number seven is only one of the thousands of superstitions that exist all around the world. They have been there since the beginning of history and have evolved differently across various regions. Similar events can mean different things. A prime example is crossing paths with a black cat, which is bad luck in France and good luck on the other side of the Channel. They are created by rumours, culture, and religion. The latter being a wide source of superstitions, which again ramify into different interpretations throughout regions, within the same religion. In essence a superstition is a belief in supernatural causality.

 

Superstition had a very strong hold on populations around the world, it was barely questioned. Observed by every social layer, it was essentially part of the age’s culture. It started to lose grip in Europe when the Enlightenment movement appeared. The intellectuals who composed the movement, calling themselves ‘Philosophes’ even though philosophy was not the main area of study for most of them, based part of the movement on the use of reason. Reason being a critical, rational, scientifically and logically justified way of thought. The movement discarded any kind of superstition, including parts of the Christian religious practices.

 

At that time religion was hindering scientific development. This was achieved through ignoring and

persecuting anyone who questioned the current assumptions around the world of science. This was challenged by the Philosophes, who wanted to lift the veil of obscurantism and open the world of knowledge and science to everyone. This in part would disprove most superstitions, even though this can be done by pure reason and logic. The Philosophes were not the first to condemn superstition, many before condemned it, starting from the greeks.

 

In that way the idea that seven is a lucky number is just as ludicrous as a black cat crossing your path. As Groucho Marx put it “If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” Some superstitions are based on common sense, such as walking under a ladder. Indeed, you are more likely to attract bad luck by doing such thing as you in the danger zone if the ladder breaks or if anything falls from above. It becomes a question of probability. Francis Bacon explains the conception of these superstitions by the fact that men pay attention when things happen but not when they don’t.

 

Figure yourself buying a lottery ticket. You will be unlikely to choose the combination 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or the  very “lucky” 7, 17, 27, 37, 47, 57, however the probability of these results are identical to any other list of numbers. This is certainly relatively hard to face with emotional human minds, but with a rational approach

it makes sense. Humans seek patterns everywhere. It is one of the very traits of human nature. People have difficulty believing in randomness and probabilities such as the above. This can be explained by the fact that most of our actions are not random there is always a reason. The fact that nature and ‘the Universe’ do not send signs, listen or watch us and act accordingly is scientific. However, even though many people are conscious of this, they choose to ignore it. Superstition gives people comfort and confidence. It makes them feel that the consequences of their actions is not completely theirs. It explains bad and good luck. However, based on reason: luck itself is a superstition.

 

Superstition is no longer such a strong force in our society though a significant number of people still observe them. Some superstitions are observed by plain habit or because they have become a way of speech. Nevertheless, it can be argued that, in a thought process similar to Pascal’s Wager, we might still be better off observing superstition.