Tonight is Halloween, but the University is no place for ghosts, goblins, ghouls and other supernatural beings to run around. The educated and scientifically-minded humans here just don't believe in that silly stuff. Or do they? According to a survey conducted in 1970, most University graduate students believe to some degree in supernatural powers like witchcraft, evil forces, unidentified flying objects, extra-sensory perception and astrology. This year, two University professors are conducting a follow-up survey that will try to find out how many members of the University community believe in astrology. "Halloween is a time when ghosts, goblins and spirits are supposed to walk around, and it's of interest to know how many people actually believe there are demons, devils and spirits," said Molecular Biology Professor Emeritus Robert Davies, one of the authors of the new survey. "Is your sun sign a joke or does it really affect your personality?" In the 1970 survey, 100 graduate students were asked to describe their beliefs in various supernatural forces on a scale from zero to 20. A rating of 20 indicated unqualified belief, while zero indicated total disbelief. The graduate students gave an average rating of 12.24 to ESP, 7.14 to UFOs and 4.16 to astrology. The results showed that continuing education does not necessarily lead to a decline in supernatural belief, according to Lewis Routledge, who conducted the 1970 survey while he was a molecular biology graduate student. Professor Davies, who described himself as a "fourth generation atheist" said he does not personally believe in supernatural forces like astrology and witchcraft because they have not been proven true through scientific experiments. "There are no more murders or people going crazy during a full moon than a new moon -- it's a myth," Davies said. Davies admitted that science doesn't have all the answers to the mysteries of life, but said that every day more and more are discovered through scientific research. "There are many things which are unknown, but not necessarily intrinsically mysterious," Davies said. Davies said it is important to know how many people believe in the supernatural because people make decisions based on their belief systems. The professor pointed to former first lady Nancy Reagan as one example of a powerful person who based many of her decisions on a belief in the supernatural. Sri Lanka even has an official astrologer in its parliament, Davies said. Even scientifically-minded people are not immune to belief in the supernatural, Davies said. "[Johannes] Kepler used to cast horoscopes for rich people," Davies said. "200 years ago it was almost uniform that scholars believed in some god or supernatural power." If Davies is right and there are many people here who do believe in the supernatural, the ghouls and goblins scheduled to descend on the University tonight might receive a warm welcome after all.Comments powered by Disqus
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