The antiscience of luck

I don’t think there’s anything to luck other than boosted self-confidence. I think of myself as a scientist; empiricist; rationalist. So I don’t believe in anything that cannot be demonstrated empirically. Thus, I have no use for religion and superstition. This isn’t to say that I don’t see beauty in the world; far from it. But I shouldn’t see luck.

I have two final exams left to go and I’ll graduate. My first final was this morning; the subject was Cryptography. Driving to campus, I was a little bit unnerved. I didn’t study as much as I should have for this exam, and I was starting to second guess myself. But then a curious thing happened. As I walked through the parking lot, I spotted a $10 bill on the ground. Talk about a lucky find. It was the most free money I’ve ever randomly found. I don’t believe in luck because I’m an empiricist, but damned if I didn’t feel lucky. I couldn’t help myself.

There’s some irrational part of our brains that has more of a hold on us than we’d like to admit. And as much as a part of my brain was saying “It’s just a coincidence, it doesn’t mean anything,” another part of my brain wasn’t having any of it. It was telling me that this was a good omen. Eventually the former part of my brain, the “logical” part of my brain, gave in, realizing there’s no reason not to believe in good luck. So I was riding a luck high, thinking to myself that nothing bad could happen to me today.

And what do you know, I walked into that exam, confident as can be, and aced it. I know so because he handed out answer sheets as soon as you turned in your exam, and I got everything correct except for a single character error on one sub-part of one question (I said an operation on elliptic curves was multiplication when in fact that operation is defined as addition).

So, purely for pragmatic concerns, I suppose I can allow myself to believe in good luck. Not on any sort of higher level of thinking, of course, but just in an indefinable fuzzy feel-good manner. No harm can come of it, and it does serve as a nice confidence booster. The only problem is that real “signs” of good luck are very rare. I cannot think of another instance in even the past year when I ran across such a clear, no buts about it sign of good luck.

I just need to continue to use my upper-level thoughts to refuse to believe in bad luck on any level, which I’ve so far done quite nicely. Yes, I do refrain from breaking mirrors, but then again, I refrain from breaking many things, especially those things that turn into many sharp shards when broken. And I don’t walk beneath ladders, but again, that has nothing to do with bad luck: it’s just a dumb thing to do. I’ve seen one ladder collapse in my lifetime and I’m sure as hell glad I wasn’t standing beneath it when it happened.

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