How to Be Lucky

It's said that we make our own luck. I believe that, at least most of the time. We can't always control our circumstances, but we don't have to have our circumstances control us. (Do you like that? Just call me Pastor Florien.)Richard Wiseman did a study on "lucky" & "unlucky" people. I found his analysis fascinating: Over the years, I interviewed these volunteers, asked them to complete diaries, questionnaires and intelligence tests, and invited them to participate in experiments. The … [Read more...]

Would I Still Be an Atheist?

by Jesse Galef -Overcoming personal bias can be one of the most difficult tasks in searching for the truth. The particular experiences and influences in our lives are - to a large degree - out of our control and yet they play a huge role in shaping our beliefs. And it's not as though we can reboot our lives, remove the biasing agent, and see what we end up believing (we would also have to do it a few hundred times so we can get a decent confidence interval).A first step is … [Read more...]

On the Origin of Superstitions

by Jesse GalefWhy are dirty underwear, mutant clover, and amputated mammal appendages associated with good fortune?  How did humans develop our "lucky" rituals? And why are they usually gross when you think about them? I hope to address two of these three questions, read on to find out which. A lucky charm I made in college: card laminated with a 4-leaf clover Tonight I will be watching my beloved Baltimore Ravens playing the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.  It should be an easy g … [Read more...]

How Observant Are You?

by Jesse GalefI'm always astounded at how poor data-gathering devices we humans are.  Forget all the hallucinations and misinterpretations, we simply don't notice or retain most of what happens around us.  Here's a great demonstration (via Richard Wiseman's blog) [youtube=] I was pretty pathetic. How did you all do?This is one of the reasons we developed the scientific method. Trusting our senses and powers of observation failed us too many times. … [Read more...]

Aliens vs Demons

by Jesse GalefCan you tell the difference between Aliens and Demons?  If you were visited in the night by an intelligent, non-human entity, could you really distinguish between them?  (In a sidenote I'm not addressing right now, how would you know the voice in your head is God and not a tricky demon?  How do you know devils can't impersonate voices?)Although nobody would know it in an age with laptops and cell phones, I'm in New York City right now. I hopped on a bus to go see my sister … [Read more...]