When Science Meets Superstition

We can’t help but be a tad superstitious when it comes to our well-being.

Including me.

Human nature lets us take credit when good things come our way: we think we somehow deserve it. But when bad juju befalls us, we shove away ownership.

It’s bad luck. Poor timing. Forces of the universe.

So when I found a spider stuck to a dish I was packing for a household move, sandwiched between some vintage bowls from Indian ancestors, I figured it signaled good luck.

Spiders are good medicine for the Osage. Fortune smiled.

But I’ve also felt superstitious–my days darkened by histories that punctuate our past.

I was diagnosed with a lung infection two years ago. The infection is like tuberculosis and, with a bit of luck matched by science, it should clear up after 24 months of taking antibiotics every day. Every single day.

And I couldn’t help but draw a connection to my Osage relatives. My mother courted lung problems in her fifties, succumbing to sarcoidosis, a disease you only hear about on episodes of House. The disease robbed her of breath and mobility.

And that’s not all.

Her mother–my grandmother–contracted tuberculosis like many young Indians. Doctors removed one lung that left her tilted and stooped.

That means three generations of Osage women in my family have been slowed by lung disease. And I wonder if it’s coincidence.

No matter the years of scientific training, having a cool eye or blessed with linear thinking, I still find magic creeps into my thinking.

And spider? It’s a good omen.

Originally posted on Wellbound Storytellers, http://wellboundstorytellers.com/2012/07/when-superstition-confronts-science/

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in authenticity, health, Indian, science, science communication and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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