SCIENCE VS. SUPERSTITION
Dr. Andrew Fober, geologist, is putting his trash on the curb when a black cat crosses his path. It belongs to the Hennessy girl down the street. He thinks its name might be Pickles.
Not ten minutes later, Dr. Fober stumbles down his cellar steps and breaks his collarbone. Twenty minutes after that, Pickles is flattened by a passing Buick.
During their sophomore year at Harvard Medical School, sweethearts Jack Beecher and Wendy Arnold decide they can wait no longer. They make plans for a spring wedding. On the morning of the big day, Jack chances to see Wendy in her dress (and a bridesmaid out of her dress). Neither bride nor groom imagines for even a moment there’s anything to worry about.
However, six months later Wendy flunks out of school and Jack gets expelled for copying off someone else’s cadaver. With such an inauspicious start, their marriage could easily have disintegrated. But no. They go on to raise a large family and eventually open a miniature golf course, complete with soft serve stand and batting cages.
Winner: Superstition, because even though things turned out well for the Beechers, and their business is making a decent profit, it’s nothing close to the doctor money they could have been pulling down.
Laura Kendall, high school chemistry teacher, spills some salt at the local diner and doesn’t bother to toss it over her left shoulder, or leave a tip. The moment she steps outside, she’s walloped by a crackling bolt of lightning. Although her recuperation is lengthy, she finds that her IQ has soared seventy points. She becomes one of the world’s leading minds, and within ten years has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and numerous Boggle tournaments.
Winner: It’s a tie. Each opponent gets in a good shot and each takes it on the chin, literally in Ms. Kendall’s case.
Ray McCurdy has thrown a perfect game through eight innings for Boston College. Technically, he doesn’t represent science in any way, but he’s passing all of his science courses and would probably recognize a picture of Stephen Hawking if someone showed one to him.
For several innings none of his teammates have mentioned the words “no-hitter,” or sat next to him in the dugout, or made eye contact with him, or offered to co-sign a loan for him. McCurdy thinks they’re overreacting. On his way back to the pitcher’s mound to start the ninth, he purposely steps on the first base line, eliciting gasps from everyone in the stadium. McCurdy grins, confidently goes into his windup, and proceeds to give up six straight hits and four runs. Also, he can feel the beginnings of a blister. And syphilis.
Winner: Georgia Tech, 4 – 3.
Dr. James Kowalski, astronomer, has been called boring once too often. Impulsively, he vows to go skydiving. The day of the jump falls on Friday the 13th. Dr. Kowalski doesn’t care. He’s a man of science, after all. A shallow crater on the surface of Mars has been named after him. Like Dr. Kowalski, it is wholly unremarkable.
Although eager to dispel his humdrum image, he suddenly has misgivings as he’s about to board the plane. He considers postponing the jump until another day. Next summer might be good. Or the summer after that. Is this genuine intuition, he wonders, or is he just using superstition as an excuse to chicken out?
Gathering himself, he squares his shoulders and gets in the plane. His chute opens with no problem. However, gusting winds carry him miles from the drop zone and force him to land in the middle of a freeway, where he’s flattened by a passing Buick.
Winner: Superstition, with a lesser victory for Mrs. Edith Turnbuckle, motorist, who’s questioned extensively by both the authorities and her insurance company but is ultimately not held liable.