Question of The Week: What Woo Do You Follow For Rational Reasons?


No-one is immune to woo, as we are fond of pointing out here at the MSS. We’re all susceptible to the irrational, and anyone can find themselves believing weird things, or taking part in something that they probably should know better than to get involved with. But that’s common ignorance for you – if you knew it was woo you obviously wouldn’t follow it. Or would you?

What if you had very good reasons for going along with a particular piece of ‘woo’? What if, apart from being irrational, you actually had very rational reasons for acting as you do? Most of us don’t walk under ladders. Not because we’re superstitious, but simply because we don’t want a tin of paint to land on our heads.

Here is this week’s question: What Woo Do You Follow For Rational Reasons?

Maybe you take homeopathy because you really like eating sugar pills? Maybe you don’t cross a black cat’s path because you have an authentic phobia of black cats? Maybe you were kidnapped by a cult and if you take off your copper bracelet the leader will burn you at the stake (ok, that one’s a bit of a push…)?

Whatever it is, let us know. We’re hungry for your stories. Feed us!

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  1. #1 by Neil Coates on July 16, 2010 - 15:09

    I won’t step on broken paving stones.

    THis is because they are often wobbly and I managed to squirt water from under a wobbly paving stone into my other shoe. It wasn’t pleasant, but was also totally NOT supernatural.

    Love the show, Steve.;-)

  2. #2 by @christheneck on July 16, 2010 - 15:30

    I always carry with me my Grandfather’s penknife. It’s part usefulness, part sentimentality and part “lucky charm”. According to Richard Wiseman’s 59 seconds, lucky charms increase people’s abilities in tests.

    I do actively delude myself that it is, if not lucky, at least familiar and comforting and am happy to cope with the cognitive dissonance if it helps me in some way.

  3. #3 by Hayley on July 16, 2010 - 15:49

    I often carry a ouija board and dowsing rods around with me, as well as conducting glass divination and table tipping sessions so that I can show people how the ideomotor effect works.

    Normally I do so at venues that think they’re haunted who have had teams in to visit who have used these methods before while thinking they actually contact the dead.

    It’s not enough to just say to people “Oh they were pushing it without knowing it”, it’s easier to go “they were subconciously moving the table/glass/planchette without necessarily knowing it and here is how”

    Plus, it’s fun to play with a ouija board. We have a game in our team to see who can spell out the word fuck the most times before other people work out who is doing it. My record is 6 times.

  4. #4 by Gittins on July 16, 2010 - 16:16

    None. I’m not superstitious.

    Touch wood.

  5. #5 by karl on July 16, 2010 - 16:24

    Being raised catholic, and appreciating their stance on evolution/astronomy/intellectual pursuits, I’m a bit soft on the catholic church. Don’t get me wrong, the new pope is a freak. But I probably don’t feel the proper amount of righteous indignation at the church as I feel for other faiths when they do insane stuff.

    Beyond that, I struggle to think of my woo skeleton in the closet.

  6. #6 by @MedTek on July 16, 2010 - 16:27

    I’m not sure if Alexander Technique is woo, but I think it’s very good.

    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=66936

    It is more about forming good habits in the use of your body and recognising the value of intention and release.

  7. #7 by Chris Taylor on July 16, 2010 - 16:29

    I go to church services, particularly evensong (often at Southwark Cathedral) because I enjoy the music. There was a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor at Southwark on Wednesday evening. Absolutely beautiful.

    More atheists (& other non-Christians) should do this.

  8. #8 by Jim S. on July 16, 2010 - 20:21

    I take a prescribed generic form of Prozac for mild depression. I realize the effect may be placebo, but it seems to work for me. Hmmmm, maybe my depression isn’t mild… 😉

  9. #9 by Kimbo Jones on July 16, 2010 - 22:36

    I despite clowns and all related clownery for completely rational reasons.

  10. #10 by Kimbo Jones on July 16, 2010 - 22:36

    Sigh…despise. Stupid beer.

  11. #11 by Chakolate on July 17, 2010 - 19:57

    About ten years ago, in a period of searching, I read about a practice that used mental energy to help heal, and decided to try it. It worked very well for me, healing a pain I’d had for years. I called it ‘psychic healing’ (the book didn’t really have a name for it), and I used it very well for several years. It involved ‘sending love’ to whatever part of the body wasn’t right. I assumed all along that I was harnessing some sort of placebo effect; that didn’t bother me, because a placebo effect is still an effect. If I could trick my body into following my mind, great.

    Then about four years ago I took a Reiki course. I set aside all my skepticism, determined to get the maximum benefit from it. I worked hard at believing there were effects, at seeing the effects, but in the end, my bullshit detector just couldn’t be suppressed any more.

    When I started looking at the whole thing from a skeptical perspective, it all fell apart, and I felt extremely silly. That’s okay, I didn’t really mind that.

    What I *did* mind was that I could no longer do my own version of ‘psychic healing’. My mind just couldn’t or wouldn’t get into it any more. Sigh.

    I’m not sorry to be undeceived, but I am sorry I can’t use my deceivedness to fix myself any more.

    I hope this all made some sort of sense. It’s been a while since I tried to put it into words.

  12. #12 by Terry on July 18, 2010 - 11:09

    I rap on watermelons with my knuckles so i can guage, by the sound they make, which one will taste the best.

  13. #13 by Susan on July 18, 2010 - 12:35

    I’m a wood touchier, I just can’t break the habit, I daren’t run the risk.

  14. #14 by Stephen on July 20, 2010 - 22:28

    I use homeopathic products, because I get thirsty sometimes.

  15. #15 by Gareth on July 21, 2010 - 12:51

    Have a few footballing superstitions. Always take the same liverpool scarf with me to the match and enter Anfield through the same turnstile every time.

    Wore the same Liverpool shirt to every Champions league match back in 2005 (of course without washing it. You wash off the luck 😉 ). Yes it may have been stupid but totally worth it for the final result.

    I think when it comes to things like sport you are more likely to follow the ways of woo because you are so desperate for the result to go your way

    Just look at Paul the octopus

  16. #16 by alphaHelix on July 23, 2010 - 10:41

    I’m currently reading the bible (in Iphone format) not because I am religious but because as an Athiest I often find myself arguing with born agains, after a few of these debate* I have come to the conclusion that athiests need to be more familiar with the bible than believers in order to back up their arguments and challenge those made. Its a hard task though as the book is so badly written! Try reading the book of revelation, it reads like a Hunter S. Thompson trip!

    *I do not start these debates, I use a three strike rule where I say something like”im an athiest, I respect your opinion but respectfully disagree” and try and leave the conversation after the third attemp to convert me then gloves come off

  17. #17 by Nate Stamness on July 27, 2010 - 03:55

    I won’t build anything over a graveyard, because that would be rude to the families and I wouldn’t have anywhere to put the bodies. Also, I saw Poltergeist. I’m not superstitious, but because of that movie, I am a little stitious.

  18. #18 by John David (@mariuskane) on July 29, 2010 - 16:20

    For some reason when I spill salt I always throw it over my shoulder, which in itself (and I never thought of it until typing this) actually causes another salt spill, so i should throw that over my shoulder… which would generate a recursive loop and mean i’m throwing it over my shoulder for a long time…

    and like a few of the people above, i am also a wood toucher – and i have no idea why , it’s not sane and I know it won’t affect anything…!

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