Author: Bruce M. Hood
Rating: ★★★★☆

Supernatural beliefs are often associated with religions or superstitious. Does it mean that an atheist or a scientifically-trained highly-rational person is immune from super natural thinking?

We try to avoid touching things that criminals have touched or living in the room that people have died, but eager to shake hands with celebrities. We invite FengShui master exam the house before buying in. We enjoy ghost stories and often get frightened by them. We believe certain naturally-produced weird-looking food has healing power although there is not scientific proof of it. We treasure family album and it is the first thing that most people would save if their house got on fire. Every culture has certain colors, numbers and activities that are considered fortunate or unfortunate. In fact, it is often easier to accept the supernatural beliefs than to reject them.

You may shrug them off by thinking that we only do these things to comply with social norms. However, precisely the reason that they become social norms, instead of just individual beliefs, is worth more studies. The studies are often conducted on children, from new-born baby to teenagers, because they have relatively short time to be influenced by the cultures they lived in. It turns out that the supernatural beliefs can often be rooted to our human nature of recognizing the world around us. We have a tendency to look for human’s image from the cloud, the smoke and the foliage of the forest. This is not surprising because the studies show that babies are very sensitive to human faces. We also tend to classify objects and try to group them into some familiar things. This is an important way to expand our knowledge into unknown world. The same behavior can also be seen in children in early ages. In fact, if something is too different and cannot be organized, we often ignore them or even disgust them.

Throughout the book, the author shows us supernatural beliefs are unavoidable no matter how rational or educated we become; at the end, the author tries to conclude that they are maybe a good thing. We learnt them through millions years of evolution and they are programmed in our brain. They are the surviving skills to bring us here and they will continue evolving with us.

This is a fun book to read with good balance of intriguing anecdotes and scientific evidence. I can see myself through the book as I share many supernatural thoughts that I wasn’t aware of, and I find satisfactory explanation that make me “Eureka!”. It is the beauty of science.

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