So very scientific, in theory

It’s Friday the 13th, but not to worry, because we are a scientific, fact-based society. (Knock on wood.) Statistically speaking, however, we are also an unscientific, opinion-based society, ready to reject things we don’t “believe” in, or that we think don’t apply to us.

Despite the multitude of scientific evidence demonstrating the extreme danger of phoning/texting while driving, not to mention laws against it, a new University of Washington study found that more than 8 percent of drivers were using electronic devices behind the wheel, higher than previously estimated. Among those driving distracted, nearly half (45 percent) were observed texting.

People say they believe the evidence, but they also believe it doesn’t apply to them.

On the other hand, we also see blind belief in unproven science. “Across the Internet … adult stem cells are promoted as a cure for everything from sagging skin to severed spinal cords,” the New York Times reports in the article, “Stem cell treatments overtake science.” While medical charlatans have always existed, they never had anything like the potential power of stem cells, which is real, to help exploit the issue.

Dr. George Q. Daley, who studies stem cells for blood diseases at Harvard Medical School, fears that if the unregulated, uncontrolled and often ineffective stem cell business continues, research progress will suffer.

“I understand how difficult it is — how many years and sometimes decades it takes before you discover a new therapy,” Daley told the New York Times. “We have a tremendous enthusiasm about the potential of stem cell therapy.

“That said, these aren’t magical agents that run around your body and fix things. It’s frustrating to watch other people who, even well intentioned, aren’t acting in their patients’ best interest.”

From the medical to the political, and everywhere in between, we are a society of sliding scale of superstitious beliefs ranging from “magical thinking” to “conspiracy theories.” Luckily, it’s professional athletes, and not, say, surgeons, who rely heavily on superstitions to get them through a day of work. Unfortunately, people who drive and text think they are operating on superior skill and experience, (like a surgeon) when in reality they are engaged in magical thinking.

It’s Friday the 13th, and it’s no more lucky or unlucky than any other day. (Except if people really do stay home because of Friday the 13ths fears, it might be easier to find a parking spot.) So, like any other day, you’ll have to check your horoscope for all the details about your specific situation.

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