Skepticism and Credence About Non-Religious Things. November 24, 2007

Skepticism and Credence About Non-Religious Things.

We have had many postings and long discussions about religions, religious beliefs and the political or social effects of religions or religious people. Many commenters have expressed why they disagree with or are skeptical about all those things.

But atheists, skeptics, humanists, freethinkers, whatever we non-god-believers call ourselves have more to our lives than constant controversy with religion. We have opinions, points of view and even beliefs about many other things, and people in general can be inconsistent in the way they choose to hold or reject beliefs. Being skeptical about God doesn’t necessarily mean being skeptical about everything.

There are many things that are popularly believed about which there are controversies over the evidence or lack thereof for either their existence or for their benefit to people.
To list just a few:

UFO’s; Big Foot in all his many incarnations around the world; Astrology; ESP in its many forms; spirits, ghosts or the lingering influence of bygone people; magical woodland creatures; lucky numbers, objects or rituals; reincarnation; sunken civilizations; lake monsters; prehistoric animals in jungles; Feng Shui; influences of crystals or metals worn on the body; faked moon landings; vitamin supplements; herbal supplements; traditional medicine; animals pre-sensing earthquakes; the full moon increasing accidents, crime or general lunacy; special powers used in erecting ancient structures; and hundreds of urban legends.

Taking the premise that it’s okay to be inconsistent, that it’s part of what makes human beings interesting and creative, and making the mutual promise that we won’t make too much fun of each other, what of these or any other controversial things do you believe, lend credence to, consider the strong possibility of, or think “Well, it could be, I guess.”?

C’mon. Don’t be embarrassed. Most of us have inconsistencies. Homogeneity is boring.


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  • Bad

    When I bowl, I sometimes can’t help but try to guide the ball down the lane with my hands even after I’ve already let go. It’s barely even conscious.

    I’m so, so sorry!

  • Brett

    I believe in body english. I’m with you, Bad.

  • sasha


    LOL me too! some forms of ESP or “inner power” are fun to believe in and are useful for analogies, even if i know they’re false

  • The existence of intelligent alien life seems like a viable possibility to me.

  • I sometimes get this feeling that I am going to win the lottery and I fantasize about what I will do with the money. My feeling have not yet come true. I only buy a ticket ever 2 or 3 months, so it doesn’t really cost me much. I used to joke that the lottery was a stupidity tax (it only taxes the stupid). I guess I’m a bit stupid 🙂

  • Amy

    I have to say that I waffle on Feng Shui. Especially considering that we were always having little emergencies that popped up in our old house that required us opening our wallets. These emergencies always had to do with water (water damage, broken sewer, clogged drains, leaky pipes, etc), and in Feng Shui water represents money. Could be coincidence, and probably is, but it didnt’ keep me from trying to redirect the energy in the house. Don’t know if it worked because we moved. And the new owners promptly had the basement flood from a ruptured pipe.

  • Lezard

    I’m willing to say that “the full moon increasing accidents, crime or general lunacy” might actually be true. However, I’d ascribe it to placebo effect… i.e. the full moon might affect people’s behavior just because people believe it affects their behavior. As Dennett would say, it’s “belief in belief”.

  • Richard Wade

    When I was applying to colleges in days of old, I got into the habit of giving the letters a good luck kiss. As time went by any letter where something important was at stake got the same ritual. In recent years as (ahem) “being rational” has become more important to me, I found myself glancing furtively around to make sure nobody saw me doing this absurd thing, and trying to break the habit has been surprisingly difficult. Gritting my teeth as I let the letter go without the good luck ritual, I feel anxiety that the outcome will not be good.

    It’s clear that it’s about anxiety and the desire to magically influence the outcome of something that literally is out of my hands once I slip the letter into the mailbox, but as I found during years of practicing (and receiving) psychotherapy, being able to analyze the cause of a behavior does not automatically make that behavior stop.

    I can see how professional sports athletes get the elaborate superstitious rituals that they’re famous for. Once the habit is set, rational thought isn’t that effective in uprooting it.

    No, I don’t kiss the monitor when I click “send” on an email. Only a superstitious goofball would do that. 🙂

  • Karen

    I take a vitamin supplement because I need the extra iron and I’ve read that most women don’t get enough zinc. I dunno if it helps, but I figure even if it doesn’t, it probably can’t hurt.

    I have gone to chiropractors and recently when I got hip tendonitis and physical therapy wasn’t working I was considering acupuncture/pressure, even though I haven’t been persuaded that actually works consistently.

    The other weird thing I have is that I sometimes get strong instincts or insights about things, and they’re usually right. I don’t think it’s ESP, or magic at all. And maybe I’m just remembering the hits and ignoring the misses, I don’t know. It might just be that somehow my unconscious brain “knows” things by picking up on signals that my conscious brain isn’t analyzing at a higher level.

  • Miko

    I tend to be a pretty ‘good’ skeptic, so none of those you listed or any other traditional ones I can think of (beyond some of the underlying things Russell discusses in The Value of Scepticism), but I’ll admit that I wish some of them were true. Astrology, faked moon landings, Feng Shui, and most of the urban legends seem pretty boring to me, but I’d absolutely love living in a world where any of the others really existed. And you left out FSL travel, PM machines, parallel universes, time travel, and large quantities of vacuum energy; those would all be fun too.

    And on the technical side of things, I believe that the Axiom of Choice is true but have “doubts” about some of the results that follow logically from it. This disturbs me greatly.

  • Miko

    I’m willing to say that “the full moon increasing accidents, crime or general lunacy” might actually be true. However, I’d ascribe it to placebo effect…

    Also confirmation bias. Incidentally, there’ve been a few studies on this (as it relates to hospitals and the police) which were all negative. But I’ve only heard about them secondhand, so I don’t have details.

    I take a vitamin supplement because I need the extra iron and I’ve read that most women don’t get enough zinc. I dunno if it helps, but I figure even if it doesn’t, it probably can’t hurt.

    It could. Iron overdosing is fairly common, although if you’re taking it specifically because you need the extra iron, that’s less likely to apply to you.

  • Mriana

    I don’t know. I sort of ascribe to the idea that a full moon (lunar) increasing adverse behaviours in people. There were always higher admissions rates to the adult psych unit when the moon was full. Or at least it seem like it to us- the staff. I don’t think anyone actually did a statistical analysis of it.

    I also have a strong sense of empathy for others, esp with my sons. ie I have mirror empathy pain when my older son is in pain. I often know when he has an earache because the opposite ear from his hurts- but I’m not the one with the infection. He is and quite often doesn’t say a word. I quit ignoring my discomfort after he had two perferated eardrums. 🙁 Now I ask him if he’s in pain when I’m having potentially mirror image pain- esp if it’s an earache. 😆 He usually is in pain and the one with the ear infection or what have you- not me. 🙁 My sons’ pain/illness is real during those times and mind is not. I also have a tendency to know when someone is feeling bad, nervous, happy etc too and it’s not always family.

    It’s weird I know. I guess I’m just sensitive to people or something. However, it is not something I want to put to the test with the guys at CFI-CSI. It would probably be the time it failed me because I’d be too engrossed in my own nervousness. I do think a lot of it is the psychology training I’ve had too, thereby I learned to read people’s body language. Except I can’t explain why I feel ill/in pain when my sons are ill/in pain before they even say a word to me. Mother’s intuition? Almost the same thing. So, who knows why I have the “sense of empathy”.

    However, a pediatritian and an ER dr said the deal I have with my sons, is not uncommon with mothers. So that’s not uncommon, but what’s the deal with other people? I don’t know and I seriously doubt there is anything scientific about it, as of yet at least, but at least, when it comes to my sons, there has been a couple drs who have varified it’s not insane, odd, or unusual.

    BTW, I freaked out my second ex-husband before we were married. There had been no contact for an usual length of time. We lived 5 hours apart, so emails and letters were not unusual and noticed when not forth coming. I wrote him and asked him if there had been a death in the family. Sad to say, I was right. It was his father who died and he had not yet told me during that lenthy time of no communication. He was shocked that I some how knew. I don’t know how I knew. No, I never met he father.

    My sons call me a banchee, because I did something similar (only I was in hysterics) when a great aunt died. I didn’t know she had died at the time I was so unusually upset without any known reason. My mother called the next day that the great aunt died the day before, considently about the time I had the hysterics. Unfortunately, odd things like this doesn’t seem unusual- thus why my sons say I’m a banchee. I’m not though. 😕

  • Maria

    wow, Mriana, that’s really interesting!

    For me personally, I tend to hang on to good luck charms. I’ve done it since I was a kid. Oh, I know they don’t actually do anything, but they do make me feel better 🙂 I also believe that not everything in “traditional” or “alternative” medicine is bs-I personally have been helped by vitamins and by some herbs. The problem with it is there is a lot of bs in it so it’s hard to separate the good from the bad (I had one lady tell me she could cure my backache by talking to angels for example, I left). I also do think there is intelligent life out there somewhere.

    As for others, well, I’ve met many people who are skeptical and critical of religion, yet they believe that there are aliens on earth, or just about any conspiracy theory you throw at them (the one world order, global warming is a conspiracy, 911 was a conspiracy and there were no planes, etc). I guess I don’t rule any of those totally out although I think them unlikely. Just goes to show you people are complex.

  • I think nearly all conspiracy theories are BS, esp the 9/11 truth movement, but the Warren Commission report of the official story of the JFK assassination has too many holes in it for me.

    I’m only claiming skepticism of the official story, not claiming that any specific speculation or other alternative theory is true.

  • Mriana

    Maria said,

    November 25, 2007 at 12:08 am

    wow, Mriana, that’s really interesting!

    Yes, interesting, but I can’t explain it and I have yet to find any reliable scientific studies on it. All I know is, it happens and I have witnesses to it or can attest to it more often than not. I just don’t have the answers as to why yet.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Mike –
    Believing in intelligent life on the other planets is definitely not in the realm of superstition or supernatural. It’s perfectly reasonable to postulate that life can begin and then evolve on planets besides our own, especially given the vastness of the universe.

    I do however find it somewhat odd and contradictory considering your belief in salvation through Jesus. But oh well.

  • Believing in intelligent life on the other planets is definitely not in the realm of superstition or supernatural. It’s perfectly reasonable to postulate that life can begin and then evolve on planets besides our own, especially given the vastness of the universe.

    I agree, and yet Richard started his list with “UFOs”

    I do however find it somewhat odd and contradictory considering your belief in salvation through Jesus.

    Why? Does the one somehow rule out the other?

  • I came to atheism specifically through the skeptical movement. I actually have more sympathy for the skeptical movement than for the atheist movement.

    I’m skeptical about every single thing you mentioned. But some of the claims have more merit than others. A full moon might increase crime because it provides natural light. Herbal and traditional medicines can plausibly have medical effects, which may plausibly be good effects. Acupuncture (which you forgot to mention) seems to reduce pain, though for entirely different reasons than the ones acupuncturists give. Vitamin supplements do have some effects, though it’s usually exaggerated. Alien life (mentioned by Mike) is considered legitimate science, so my thoughts on that consist entirely of normal scientific skepticism.

    I’m not saying that I have no superstitious beliefs, just none that I know of. If I knew about them, they’d be gone by now!

    I would agree with your discouraging of homogeneity. But it’s not like being skeptical makes everyone homogeneous. To the contrary, skepticism encourages questioning everything. When I read skeptical magazines, I still end up disagreeing with about half of it.

  • Cross-posted…

    Exobiology is considered legitimate science while UFOlogy is not because UFOlogy has bunk for evidence. So a skeptic like myself puts them into different categories. Don’t confuse them, Mike, at least for me? 🙂

  • K

    I have prescience dreams. Nothing life-changing. I just used to know if we were going to have a substitute at school and what they would look like or if someone is going to visit. Also, anytime I get a stomach thing and start throwing up, the battery dies in my watch. It can be an old battery or a new battery, but somehow I can suck it dry if I’m puking. I have to take it off right away to save it. Those 2 things shouldn’t happen, but they do. Those aren’t airy-fairy beliefs though, they just shouldn’t be happening but they do.
    Some friends of mine convinced me to let them try acupuncture on me when I was a month past term. I didn’t believe in it though and they said I didn’t have to believe for it to work. It didn’t work.
    It’s probable that there are aliens from outer space and even slightly possible that they visit and fly around for a laugh, but I don’t believe any of the chowderheads in The Enquirer.
    The cycle makes me laugh. Anyone remember the 70s? It was Bigfoot, Nessie, UFOs, and The Bermuda Triangle. That all was replaced by crystals and all the 80s new age nonsense. Now it’s coming back again. I haven’t heard about The Bermuda Triangle yet, but give it a little more time.

  • Despite my skepticism and rationality, I still suffer from overwhelming paranoia, often about the stupidest things possible.

  • Adrian

    I still try to get the number 19 whenever I play for an organized sports team. But if someone gets it before me, or the numbers don’t go that high, it really doesn’t bother me. Then I just get the number 8 🙂

  • Spook, it’s not paranoia if They really are out to get you.

    I think the basic premise of Richard’s post is worthwhile, to remind a lot of people (the Unbrainwashed is a prime example) that it isn’t only religious believers who hold unsupported beliefs. Anyone who calls perself The Unbrainwashed is mainlining hubris in the first place.

    Let’s see, this sums it up very nicely:

    “Believing in intelligent life on the other planets is definitely not in the realm of superstition or supernatural. It’s perfectly reasonable to postulate that life can begin and then evolve on planets besides our own, especially given the vastness of the universe.”

    Wasn’t it Bertrand Russell who said that postulating has all the advantages of theft over honest toil? In any case, postulates are by definition pre-rational at best. Reason is only as good as the postulates you feed into it, and Garbage In, Gospel Out! Reason sits (so to speak) on a non-rational base. (In saying this I am not advocating the abandonment of reason, as scientistic hysterics might claim; I’m simply insisting that reason’s limits be respected. If I say that a claw hammer is not a proper tool for disciplining a child, I’m not being ‘anti-hammer.’)

    While it is not unreasonable to speculate that life might have arisen elsewhere in the universe, it is unreasonable to believe that it has done so, in the absence of any evidence at all. (There’s a good summary of the evidence in Stephen Webb’s If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens… Where Is Everybody? Spending millions of dollars to try to search for its signs, or advocating that huge sums of money be so spent (as did the late Carl Sagan) is not reasonable either, especially when that money is needed for more earthbound projects. Sagan’s campaign for SETI was quite irrational. So was Daniel Koshland’s claim that it was okay to spend money on the Human Genome Project rather than the homeless because “these people are impaired.” So was E. O. Wilson’s outburst that “Multiculturalism equals relativism equals no supercollider equals communism.” (I think he gave away too much in his third term.) So was Michael Shermer’s “To date science – even scientism – has had little to do or say in this social mode” of “providing a foundation for social order and moral edification” (Shermer believes that religion has done those tasks well). Or the currently trendy atheists’ rantings about “Islamofascism.”

    What I’ve had to learn to be skeptical about is the claims of science. Being queer has been an advantage there, since when I was growing up (50s, 60s) there was almost no dissent from the belief that homosexuality was a disease. That taught me a healthy skepticism when anyone else claimed that “we” know something because “science” teaches it, and anyone who disagrees is an irrationalist with an agenda. When someone claims to be rational, tout court, I know they’re irrational, and probably dangerous — just like someone who claims to know what God wants.

  • Karen

    Or the currently trendy atheists’ rantings about “Islamofascism.”

    Atheist rantings? Please. Christian conservatives own the franchise on Islamofascism paranoia.

    I think you might like to meet Olvi. Or maybe – is that you, Olvi?!

  • Oh come on. Exobiology does not involve just postulating other life. It involves studying what we know about life and inferring things about other sorts of life. Saying we can’t infer anything about extraterrestrial life in the absence of evidence is like saying we can’t infer anything about the atmosphere of ancient earth without having actually been there. We may not have direct evidence, but we have theory, which is, by the way, supported by evidence.

    That said, I think Sagan overestimated the number of alien civilizations by several orders of magnitude. I say this because I’ve read his paper. And yes, the Fermi paradox is a good strike against it too. But this is all just normal scientific skepticism, which should exist in every field.

  • Jen

    I can believe in alien life forms on other planets, but I don’t believe that if they exist, that they have contacted our planet in any form. But, I think that given how large the universe is, there is a possibilty out there.

    I don’t believe in ghosts. Except, of course, sometimes, when I kind of do. And I realize it makes no sense whatsoever, because I honestly and truly believe that our ‘souls’ (or whatever makes us us) disappear when we die, so I have no reason to believe some people’s stick around. Hasn’t stopped me from reading Haunted Chicago and its sequel and um… maybe goingtolookforafewoftheghosts don’t judge me!

    I watched way too much Unsolved Mysteries as a kid to become the full-on skeptic I want to be.

  • Interested

    Exobiology. I reckon they’re out there, just really far away. (Hence no visits). Cryptozoology, simply because it keeps coming up with new stuff. (Not Nessie and co, but regular animals stashed away remotely).

  • To add another belief to the list… I’ve always been fascinated by the possible existence of Atlantis. I did a bunch of research into it back in high school and was pretty nearly convinced, though now I’m not so sure. I think it’s still a possibility though.

  • N

    -I carry a piece of wood to knock on three times just in case someone says something like “You won’t crash the car today!”
    -I wish on the first star with the wishing rhyme.
    -I take unnecessary vitamins to allay hypochondria.
    -Whenever I get the number fifteen anything (computer 15, locker 15), I have the feeling that things will be ok; I used to get that number all the time!

  • I like to think that eventually science will discover a real cause behind some paranormal events, ESP, Ghosts, Poltergeists etc. like they’re the result of magnetic fields or something. Which would mean that I think that sometimes there are events which can’t be explained by science (yet), but they’re just not what we think they are i.e. Ghosts. It’s really wishfull thinking on my part though.

  • What if they are what we think they are, there is a scientific explanation, and we just haven’t discovered it yet? For example, what if psychic powers do exist and there is a scientific explanation? Same with ghosts, or various “mythical” creatures (the giant squid comes to mind), or UFO’s? There are lots of things we don’t know yet. Being skeptical doesn’t mean ruling out the possibility of future discoveries.

  • Mriana

    What if they are what we think they are, there is a scientific explanation, and we just haven’t discovered it yet? For example, what if psychic powers do exist and there is a scientific explanation?

    I’m still waiting and I’m the “empathic” one here! There’s a problem though… I know I’m over the chart with empathy, drs have heard of it and seen it many times over, psychologist have even seen it too and try hard NOT to get emeshed with patients because of it, neither group denies it real, but… there is no scientific evidence for it or even explaining it.

    There lies the problem. I want an explanation and others unaccustom to such things want scientific evidence. There is neither forthcoming at this time.

    Now Ramachandran MIGHT be on to something with his empathy neuro-studies though. In his article, some people do have an unusually high amount of empathy neurons in their brains. I have a link to it somewhere as well as the video he talks about this. It’s only a beginning of a possible explanation, but that’s it. It’s not conclusive though. I do know, that is probably where the explanation lies though: neuro-psychology.

  • Richard Wade

    To me, empathy is the ability to understand what another person is feeling in so clear a way that we come close to feeling it ourselves. We simply associate what they are going through with a similar experience we have had and the feeling comes up for us. For instance, if you see someone pinch their finger in a three ring binder and you wince, that is empathy. If you hear how their best friend died and you have a pang of grief along with sympathy for them, that is empathy. If you only say to yourself “That probably hurts,” that’s not empathy. Joyful feelings can be empathized as well.

    Empathy is a common, basic human trait. Most people have it. One is seriously socially deficient without it. You seem to be talking about something extraordinary. Can you clarify?

  • Mriana

    Richard, that is what I was talking about, but I’m talking about knowing before being told. You are talking about something one sees and knows during/afterwards. I physically feel an earache or what have you when my sons’ have earaches or alike, I feel when others are sad and what have you- before anyone tells me. I had no clue that my older son had an ear infection, but I had ear pain, but his eardrum perferated in the middle of the night while he was asleep. Needless to say, I ran him to the ER in the middle of the night. He never complained, said a word, or tugged etc at it before then. He gave me no clue- most middle schoolers don’t.

    When the dr asked him why he never told me, he said, “It was just clogged, so I didn’t worry about it.” Yet I had the ear pain all that time and went away when my son was on antibiotics.

    Psychological yes, but by your definition, I cannot empathize unless I know or see it. I’m talking about not knowing and not seeing, yet still having the same pain, feeling, etc. I still call that empathy.

  • Mriana,

    That’s amazing! That sounds like more than just empathy. Do you feel this for strangers as well?

  • Mriana

    I don’t think it’s that amazing- esp when it involves pain or something distressing. It’s rare when I feel such things with strangers though. I also don’t like it when my sons call me a “banshee” either.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana, I think that would be categorized as telepathy, experiencing the thoughts, feelings or experiences of another person in real time, but remotely so that the classical five senses cannot be what are involved.

    In the case with your son (I read your earlier description as well) there could be two more mundane explanations, firstly that you were subconsciously noticing his facial expressions, mannerisms and behaviors during the day and evening, and combining that with other verbal cues and health history knowledge. Did he not have a history of ear infections before this particular time? If so, you might have been able to notice the non-verbal signs. You then produced your own empathic “earache.” I acknowledge that this can sound as unlikely as telepathy can sound.

    The other mundane explanation is recall bias, where you have your own aches and pains at various times and you had this pain for whatever reason but it was coincidentally at the same time as your son’s earache. That one could also explain the incident when your great aunt died. You may, as most people do, have unexplained bad moods from time to time and not think much about them but when one occurred at the same time as a family member’s death you thought there might be a causal connection.

    I’m not saying that these explanations are correct. The “devil” is in the details. There are so many subtle details in human interactions that we overlook. Far more communication is non verbal than verbal, and much of that information is processed underneath the radar of our conscious awareness. Humans seem to be hard wired to find cause and effect. It’s very useful. But we are so good at it that we often find false causes, thinking there is a connection between two events that happen simultaneously or in short succession. We remember, as Karen said the hits rather than the misses and think there is a pattern that strongly suggests cause and effect.

    I’m not adamantly saying there’s nothing to it, but I tend to be skeptical because whenever telepathy is tested in controlled conditions the results are either negative or inconclusive.

  • Mriana

    I don’t blame anyone for being skeptical. The problem is, telepathy or empathy is not something one can turn on and off at will. Thus, I don’t believe it can be tested in a controlled situation. It’s not like someone can ask, “OK, what am I thinking?” It doesn’t work that way and it’s not like Deanna Troi’s empathy where you can ask her if she senses anything. Personally, I don’t think what I’m wanting an explanation for is telepathy either. If anything I would say it’s empathy.

    1. Yes, he had a history of ear infection, but even when he was a baby I had the ear ache first, but nothing wrong with me. It wasn’t long that I would be taking him to Urgent Care in the middle of the night because he was crying about something- which turned out to be an ear infection. Before his ear infection he was fine and playing.

    Not that I discount non-verbal cues in this case, it just doesn’t seem quite on target because it been all their lives, plus when I was a child there were other odd things that had nothing to do with illness.

    2. As for my behaviour with my great aunt- I have never had hysterics before. This was not just a bad mood. I was out of sorts even to my sons- who were teenagers then too.

    Well, no, I know your assumption are not quite right. I think someone who works in the field- psychologist or alike, would have to be there at the time to know for sure, but it can’t be turned off and on in a lab. It’s like one night you are struck with awe and wonder of the night sky, but the next night you don’t feel that same experience and probably won’t feel it again for months or years.

  • Richard Wade

    I guess there will always be mysteries. Skeptics can accept that fact of life, since the word skeptic does not mean to disbelieve; it means to look, to insist on seeing. It has the same root as telescope, microscope, etc.

    Regardless of any explanation, it remains that your sons are lucky to have so attentive and intuitive a mom.

  • Mriana

    Regardless of any explanation, it remains that your sons are lucky to have so attentive and intuitive a mom.

    I won’t disagree with that.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    I am phobic about flying in airplanes. It absolutely terrifies me. I have to take anti-anxiety meds just to tolerate it. And yes, my skeptic/rationalist/atheist self knows that this is highly irrational, that I’m much more likely to be killed in the car on the way to the airport — but my great-ape brain just KNOWS that my body is not supposed to be 30,000 feet in the air!

    So what happens like clockwork, about 48 hours before I’m going to fly, is that I suddenly become superstitious to an insane degree. I will become convinced that I am having horrible premonitions that are telling me not to get on the plane. (Never mind how many times those premonitions have failed to come true in the past.) If I have to make any sort of decision it feels like if I choose the “wrong” thing that will somehow cause my plane to crash. I have little rituals that start as soon as I arrive at the airport.

    Deep down I know that all of this is beyond silly, but no amount of reciting statistics or any other strategy has worked, so I try to just roll with it. My current mantra is, “I have chosen to accept this (extremely minimal) level of risk. Now I just have to get through the next few hours.” That plus the drugs enables me to fly, but I’m always exhausted afterward because I’ve been concentrating so hard on “keeping the plane in the air.”

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Mriana, I would like to second what Richard said, that you are probably perceiving very subtle cues from your son without realizing it. There is, for example, a phenomenon known as a “microexpression” — a very fleeting change in facial expression that a person does not even know they are making, and that others do not consciously see, but that can be seen clearly on videotape that has been slowed down. We were taught in nursing school that nurses tend to score very highly on tests of the ability to perceive microexpressions. I’m willing to bet that mothers would do even better when observing them in their own children. We are social beings, and human young are unusually helpless — no doubt this ability has helped us to survive as a species. Give yourself some credit — you have an important skill that clearly makes you an excellent mother.

    (P.S. I’m not entirely sure how much science there is to back up these claims about microexpressions — I couldn’t find the study about nurses, for example. It just makes a lot of intuitive sense to me, and doesn’t seem to invoke any woo as far as I can tell. I know that criminologists are very interested in them for potential lie detection purposes. If any of you are aware of any evidence to the contrary, please let me know!)

  • Mriana,

    When I said “amazing,” I didn’t mean “wow what a great thing you are experiencing.” I only meant that it sounded extraordinary. Well, I, for one, believe that people can have supernatural gifts, so I believe you are gifted. It would be nice if you could find a way to tap into it at will, though. (or turn it off at will.)

    And in response to Richard Wade’s original thought…

    I’m afraid of the monster under the bed. I always have to keep my feet under the covers. I think the monster is waiting to devour my feet. 🙂

    This is a fun post. There are some very interesting comments 🙂 ..

  • Mriana

    I’m afraid of the monster under the bed. I always have to keep my feet under the covers. I think the monster is waiting to devour my feet.

    Um… That sounds like one of my girls! So that is where Scarlette is hiding tonight. Say, Linda, could you send my little black furball back home ASAP? She looks like a black Persian with a red diamond coller. 😀 Don’t be afraid. She’s not a panther looking for lunch.

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