I was sitting in a bar last night having a beer. It’s been raining a lot here for the last couple of days and so the umbrellas are out in force. So there I was, having a beer and a chat and some guy opened his umbrella up inside the bar!!! So what, who cares right? Apparently plenty of people do. Puh-lease!
It started with one lady objecting and mentioning that it’s bad luck. “Oh, right, I forgot” says the umbrella man. I’m sorry, but I just can’t let this sort of bullshit pass. So I didn’t.
I asked both of them at once “Are you serious?”
“Yes” said the woman.
“You can’t be too careful” said the man.
Well apparently they can’t be too careless when it comes to their thinking and before I’d said anything more the incredulous smile on my face seemed to spark a debate between a few people in the bar along the lines of “Well, the universe is a mysterious place” and “My auntie’s friends brother once walked under a ladder and immediately had his head bitten off by a kangaroo blah blah blah”. Ok, I made the kangaroo bit up, but the point is people believe in these superstitions and had anecdotal evidence from distant, unconfirmed sources to back it up. In other words, otherwise ordinary people had outrageous beliefs, truly ridiculous in nature, that they were prepared to defend with absolutely no coherent reason to do so.
Good, because I’m prepared to attack them.
The origins of the umbrella are a little complicated. On the one hand its origin is claimed to be in China approximately 1,700 years ago but it’s close relative, the parasol, is depicted in Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian and Greek art pre-dating this (by as much as 2000 years) and it seems odd to imagine that no one ever stood under one when it rained. But regardless of exactly how old the umbrella is it is certainly no more than a few thousand years old. Young Earth Christians may therefore have a work around for what I am about to say. The rest of the at least partially sane people on this planet do not.
I asked the people how old they thought the umbrella was. Everybody seemed to be pretty content that it was maybe one or two thousand years old and two people even opted for China as the origin. So I asked “OK, so we can agree that the umbrella has been around for a few thousand years at most right?”, and we were all agreed.
“How old is the universe?” I asked.
“About 15 million years old” said one.
“No, it’s about 15 billion” said another.
Whatever! I didn’t want to get redirected into a discussion of the age of the universe and so I just asked if we could agree that the universe was vastly more ancient than the umbrella. Nobody had a problem with this.
“So, is the umbrella somehow special?” I asked, “I mean, when it was invented and the first one built did it’s shape or function somehow magically connect it to the universe in a way that the invention of the spoon did not, for example?”
“Or did the rules of the universe suddenly change upon the invention of the umbrella so that opening one up inside a room suddenly became some sort of magical remote control to influence the universe so that it then wanted to hurt who ever had opened it?”
More silence and then an “I don’t know why it works but you shouldn’t do it anyway”.
“Yes, unless you lightly salt a black cat whilst walking backwards under a ladder to protect yourself with a rabbits foot in your anus” I said and I finished my beer.
The moral of this story is that superstitions are fucking stupid. If you really think the universe works that way then you are not only mad but arguably certifiable. The intensity of the ignorance and the inability to think critically required to believe that the universe is affected in such a deterministic fashion by recent inventions, and recent life forms (black cats, rabbits and their feet, etc), with no causal mechanism whatsoever is so mind numbingly vacuous it really is incredible that anybody remains ignorant enough to believe such crap.
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