Posts Tagged Superstition

Skeptics with a K: Episode #026

Malaria condoms, Michael Jackson, Dastardly & Mutley and the Million Ghost March. Plus, psychics seeking privacy, the accidental serial killer and Rick Moranis. Ruining the case for the defence, it’s Skeptics with a K.


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Tarots And Tattoos In Tijuana

Last week, CBS News posted the following report, which can be filed firmly in the THAT’s The Harm box:

“Police running scared from drug gangs in one of Mexico’s deadliest cities are using bizarre rituals involving animal sacrifice and spirit tattoos to seek protection from raging violence on the U.S. border” – Source: CBS

As the story continues (and it’s worth reading the whole thing), an increasing litany of pseudoscience emerges as being relied-upon by police involved in one of the most dangerous drug wars on the planet, including:

  • Tarot card symbols
  • Magical protective tattoos
  • Animal sacrifices – chicken
  • Haitian Voodoo, Cuban Santeria, Mexican Witchcraft
  • Priests
  • Patron saints (including Jesus Malverde, patron saint of drug traffickers)
  • Statues and skulls
  • Ritualistic behaviour
  • Spirits
  • Full moons

What strikes me most about the story is the extremity of the situation – given the grip drug gangs have on the region, and the inevitable supply of funds this affords criminals in their war with the police, the local authorities are understandably up against the wall. Many are forced (often at gunpoint) to switch sides and work for the gangs. Clearly, the honest police are fighting a losing battle, and one with deadly consequences… and so they turn to whichever belief system might offer them a chink of hope.

Psychologists often talk about the habit of the human mind to delve into unscientific, ritualistic behaviour at times of great stress or anxiety. Rarely have I ever seen a case so illustrative of that simple fact. We truly are just pattern-seeking pigeons, it seems.

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Woo Or No Woo

MSS Skeptics in the Pub regular and professional gambler AJ drops in to offer his take on superstition and gameshows…

Noel Edmonds. Love him or hate him, or dream about setting about him with a claw hammer; one thing you can’t deny is that he has a beard. An immaculate beard. Let’s be honest, it’s a prize-winner. As could you be if you were to appear on his daily quiz show woo spectacular that is Deal or No Deal.

The format is probably familiar to a lot of people by now – the game starts with twenty two contestants, each with a sealed box in front of them containing an amount ranging between 1p and £250,000 that is unknown to them, or indeed anyone bar the independent adjudicator. Each box is clearly numbered on its exterior from 1 to 22 to identify them. A contestant is chosen to start the game, they bring their box to the front of the stage, give a synopsis of their life story to Noel, who nods and emotes in all the right places and then its seatbelts on and we’re off. Read the rest of this entry »