At the bottom of this post are pictures of 11 commenters hands. A recent study claims that people with relatively small ring fingers are more susceptible to superstitious thinking. My blog illustrates my own personal susceptibility too superstitious perceptions which is indeed verified by my hand in the picture above. So now I have an excuse! See if you think these commenters also confirm the hypothesis.
Apparently finger lengths tell us something about our minds. Particularly, lots of research has explored the ratio of our index finger to our ringer finger. In medicine, the ring finger is the 4th digit (4D) and the index finger is the 2nd digit (2D). So the ratio is mathematically expressed as 2D:4D. The 2D:4D ratio has been shown to be related to the individual’s prenatal androgen levels (e.g. testosterone) and thus correlated to sexual characteristics. I will let the reader explore all that information at this wiki article on Digit Ratio. I have not dug deep to inspect the quality of all this research and will have to leave that to the like of Tom Reese at the fine site: Ephiphenom if he is interested.
A new 2D:4D ratio study tries to relate the ratio to Woo Woo thinking: “Who wants to believe? Associations between digit ration (2D:4D:) and paranormal and superstitious beliefs” by Martin Voracek (University of Vienna School of Psychology) in Personality and Individual Differences. Voracek’s study suggests that folks with a lower 2D:4D ratio tend to experience and believe in the paranormal more than those with a higher ratio. He suggests that this woo tendency is prenatally determined and reflected in our finger lengths.
Click to see the pics and read on:
For example, in the photos below, you can see that JeffCh, a personal face-to-face friend, has a long ring finger. And sure enough, Jeff is not only a self-declared rationalist but I can verify, he does not have an ounce of woo in his poor dried up soul! ;-) In fact, though he only deconverted from Christianity 3 years ago, he claims that even when he was a “Christian”, his commitment was purely social because he never thought Christianity out since he realized it served him socially. He was far from having a mystical relationship with Jesus, his was just had a solid, good-citizen relationship with the Church and his upbringing.
I think categorizing both Christians and Atheists into woo-prone and dry-bone camps is informative. OK, those are playful terms. Sure, we could get positive terms for each, but for the sake of the post, endulge me ! I would wager that an atheist and an theist who share this woo-propensity would have more in common than they suspect.
For the info below, I asked each of my volunteers for three things:
- A picture of their hand
- A self-rating of 0-100 based on the following:
- 0 = Everything is logic: eg, Star Trek’s Mr Spock (well, probably his father, since Spock was a little human).
- 50 = let’s say this is someone who has perceived superstitious stuff only mildly in their life but never believed any of it.
- 100 = devoted their life to some aspect of woo and totally believes it !
- 3 sentence to describe their “woo-ness”
This is, of course, a very poor study and just for fun. But, I think it helps illustrate my points and is fun.
On a serious note, though, one of the themes of my blog is emphasizing how our disposition often determines our philosophies and our experiences. Most folks think that they have come to their philosophies via reason alone, but I think this is largely delusional. Of course I do feel reason plays some role, but that role is largely in rationalizing around preferences and limited environmental options/niches available to the individual. I do feel reason does have an objective role, but only rather small, and only if buffered with many other checks (thus the scientific method). This is not to belittle reason or our own choices or our own philosophies — it is merely to be honest about our starting points.
1) Main HT: Bruce Hood Supersense
Woo-scale: 90 (0-100)
Comment: At some previous point in my life I was a 90 and I believed in the power of prayer, the existence supernatural beings like demons which could influence me, demon possession. Pretty much the basic charismatic Christian set of beliefs. I also spoke in tongues a bit, but have a hard time admitting that now.
Personal Site: A Time to Rend
Comment: I don’t feel a susceptibility to this woo in the least, but I suspect that positing explicitly crude supernatural examples against the notion that “everything is logic” is a false dichotomy. There seems to be what I’d call a first person subjectivity that is impossible to escape without losing a natural aspect of our humanity and yet stops short of the literal crudeness of speaking in tongues, channeling dead grandparents, etc. In fact, Spock is a great example of what happens when one allows oneself to slip all the way to zero: there is something unnatural about his “character”.
Comment: It is with great effort that I resist the pull of quite a variety of woo impulses. I am a recovering devotee of several ecstatic christian sects.
Woo-scale: 40 and falling (0-100)
Comment: I’ve always struggled to believe it, but I’ve often wanted to,
Personal Site: Where is the Christmas Story?
Woo-scale: 1 (0-100)
Comment: I like the Star Trek reference, however my trouble with the series is the focus on the uber logical character always wanting to be more “human”; I wanted the reverse. All claims are by default false, and all the examples you gave are extraordinary claims without tangible, reproducible evidence to support them. Ergo, hogwash.
Personal Site: None yet
Woo-scale: 25 (0-100)
Comment: I was 100%. Due to low self-esteem, for the first 40 years of my life I believed just about anything my seemingly intellectual superiors had to say. Keeping in my mind that I thought just about anybody was superior. My current susceptibility is about 25%.
Personal Site: On Leaving Fundamentalist Christianity
Woo-scale: 0-5 (0-100)
Comment: When I was a conservative Christian I wrote off non-Christian spirituality as nonsense or demonic activity. Now that I’m an atheist leaning agnostic I tend to think it’s all nonsense or natural phenomena. Occasionally I get this warm fuzzy urge to try and see some connection between all humanity, and sometimes I can almost see it, that’s about as woo-ish as I get.
Personal Site: Atheist and Christian Community Blog
Woo-scale: 10 (0-100)
Comment: “Card Carrying Skeptic”. I see the world as purely natural, can’t help it, it just is. I had only one religious/spiritual experience (at a revival type service where I was “slain in the spirit”), and it is explainable via psychology.
Personal Site: BibleCritic
Woo-scale: 64 (0-100)
Comment: For me it’s based on environment and external stimulus. My rational mind doesn’t want to believe it, but I can’t help wandering into the grey areas for a look.
Personal Site: None
Comment: Of course it matter which self I am in as to how woo I am at any given moment. Time has disciplined some of the woo out of me. But I must plea that just because I perceive a magic world, if I don’t act on the insanity, I can’t be held guilty — smile !
Personal Site: Triangulations
Woo-scale: (0-100) 75
Comment: I am skeptical, but have seen things I can’t logically explain. There are many other people who describe such experiences. I don’t believe all of them are fools or are lying. (Although some are.)
Personal Site: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World