Joedy Cook, director of the Ohio Center for Bigfoot Studies, talks to a visitor to his booth Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005, at the Texas Bigfoot Conference in Jefferson, Texas. (AP Photo/D.J. Peters)Human beings are, in general, a superstitious lot. Our tendency to see patterns where they don’t exist, and to falsely apply cause to effect, may have helped keep us alive back when we were little more than a band of frightened critters scurrying about the savanna. Those tendencies linger to the present day, reflected in our stubborn belief in completely irrational things: Rabbit’s feet. Horoscopes. A return to the gold standard.
The Chapman University Survey on American Fears, a comprehensive study of the fears, phobias and irrational beliefs of the American people, was just released this week and contains an interesting section on belief in the paranormal. The results are drawn from a nationally-representative sample of 2,500 American adults.
It finds that belief in certain paranormal phenomenon – like influencing the world with physical thought, and foretelling the future with dreams – are fairly widespread. On the other hand, few Americans actually believe in astrology.