Afternoon InquisitionSkepticism

AI: Make A Wish

dandelionsAs skeptics we work hard at discarding superstitions and rationalizing our behaviors. We abandon fantasies such as the tooth-fairy and ghosts in exchange for a rational outlook at a world that is surprisingly rich in its reality. We don’t need to avoid the black cat that crosses our path for we realize they need not be feared. The number 13 becomes nothing more than a bakers dozen to the skeptic. A broken mirror becomes pieces for a mosaic. A ladder can be walked under or used to rise above. Fear has been removed and understanding has taken its place. Life is fuller and a heck of a lot less scary when superstition is traded in for something better, reality.

However, there is one superstition (albeit no-so-scary activity) that it seems even skeptics have held on to. Whenever the birthday cake with the glowing candles is placed in front of us we blow out the candles, squeeze our eyes tight and we make a wish. The same thing happens if a coin is tossed into a fountain or the tiny seeds of a dandelion are blown into the wind. We wish upon stars. Well, technically we wish upon rocks hurtling through the atmosphere but you get the idea.

I like to think of a wish as hopeful optimism and perhaps a bit of conscious goal fertilization. It is a ritual that is indeed superstitious in its origin but has endured as a tribute to our inherent hopefulness.

I picked this dandelion for you. What would you like to wish for today?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. whoa whoa whoa… superstition? Haven’t you read the Secret? I think that tome of evidence knocks it up to a well supported hypothesis at least, maybe even a theory.

  2. I tend to wish for things that have a high likelihood of occurring, it’s the realist in me. For this dandelion I wish for my good friend to get positive results back from her biopsy (a less statistically sound wish than I normally make, but that’s what hope is about: beating the odds).

  3. I wish for time to freeze for one week for everyone but me so that I can catch up on things. Oh, is that a second dandelion under my desk?!?….I also wish for a nice and easy dissertation topic.

  4. Oooh! Dandelions? I’d dig them up and make dandelion tea from the roots and turn the leaves into a lovely salad. It’s my favorite herb.

    Having just turned 43 on Jan. 30th, I found myself sighing and nodding when you mentioned birthday wishes. I tend to wish for things I already have or can attain through a bit of hard work; like happiness or more readers regular readers on my blog

    I know that real magic doesn’t exist. There’s still this part of me that wants to hold on to that wonderful feeling from when I was little. That hope that if I wished hard enough, my one big birthday wish of the year would come true.

    But it won’t unless by sheer coincidence. And so I console myself with the beauty of the universe and the “magic” that science brings.

    Once in a while though I miss the magic of wishes and fairies and dragons. Just once in a while.

    And Happy Birthday @Taypro!!

  5. @FledgelingSkeptic: Having just turned 43 on Jan. 30th, I found myself sighing and nodding when you mentioned birthday wishes. I tend to wish for things I already have or can attain through a bit of hard work…

    Me, too. About to turn 47 I find myself with a Yoda attitude towards life: “Do… or do not. There is no wish.” Maybe wishing is a more youthful trait.

  6. I’d wish that the grants I’ve put in for will be approved but I know that at this point they are hopefully going off the strength of our proposal. And it is rock solid.

    I’d wish my coworkers would stop getting virii? But then I just took away everyone but my ability to be an admin.

    I’d wish that I could be magically one of those dramatically beautiful and charasmatic people that others love and flock to. But then I wouldn’t be me and I like me.

    So I’ll just wish you a good day.

  7. This weekend on my birthday candle I wished that my boyfriend would find a job. Which I know he will do eventually, and I know it is largely dependent on the economy and him passing his A+ cert. But still, it is something I want that is outside of my control, and wishful thoughts will not hurt me.

    If he had a job I would have wished for a pony.

    Happy Birthday Taypro, fellow skeptic aquarian!

  8. Embarrassing admission: even as a child, and now still, the pressure of coming up with a wish has always been to overwhelming for me, so I never actually make one. I always say that I did, but I don’t think I’ve ever ACTUALLY wished on birthday candles, shooting stars, or anything.

  9. I wish that the ignorami of the world would put a sock in it and open their brains to some reason.


    no wonder I never get what I wish for…

  10. I wish that my flights won’t be delayed or canceled so I can see my boyfriend tomorrow. Last time I saw him was 3 months ago and he was just getting out of the hospital. It feels like all my trips to see him are jinxed.

  11. I wish that my children will graduate high school and go to college and study fields that will allow them to get jobs that pay well and are secure. I wish that they grow up happy and won’t have to fear discrimination. I wish they are able to build a group of friends and family that support their dreams and help when it is needed. I wish they will be happy.

  12. I’d like to win the lottery (Local state lottery is fine, I’m not greedy), I’d also wish for true love (not in that order), and I’d wish for Bruce Campbell to make more movies. I’m sure I could combine them into a single wish, such as “I wish my true love and myself would go see “Freddy vs Jason vs Ash” as a way of celebrating my big lotto win”

  13. @taypro: Happy birthday, young lady! And many more!

    A wish? Elyse, I would also have wish for Moose’s rescue this morning, if I had known about it in real time.

    @markhall: I wish that if you get your wish, I either get body armor or manage to stay several hundred miles from your location.

    Oh, for me?
    A way towards happiness. (Note that I don’t ask for it, merely to be shown the path towards mine. )
    If not, some chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk will do.

  14. I must admit I do forget to make a wish when I blow out the candles on my birthday cake,mainly because I get embarassed with the fuss over another birthday,it makes me feel uncomfortable.So I end up just blowing the candles out and everyone just claps and they are probably thinking ‘I wonder what he wished for’ ah well I forgot to.But in the clear light of day I do wish for people from every walk of life, to stop and think about others,have empathy for others and to forgive others and yourself for past events,its a brand new day tomorrow.Can I ‘wish’ all the best to you all?

  15. @here_fishy: Totally!

    I also wish that penguins would suddenly appear on my front lawn. I don’t think that’s so far-fetched since there’s a thick layer of ice and snow there presently. And it would afford me the opportunity to say, “Oh, look, penguins!” :-)

  16. @Amy: Well, I guess I’ll have to do.

    (My surname is “Bender,” therefore I can use the name with relative impunity.)

    @Garrison22: If that’s the case, I wish for “penguins on the telly!”

  17. @davew: True story. I LOVE dandelions. I loved them so much as a child that I would go out on the hill and lie in them until I was covered with pollen and my family knicknamed me Dandelion. I felt sad, as a pre-schooler, that my neighbor did not have lovely dandelions, so I spent a long time carefully removing the fluff from a handful of seeds and just as carefully distributed them over his lawn. He was a very sweet old man, I still live.

    As for making wishes, I never do. I figured out when I was about 9 that if you never want anything, you can’t be disappointed. Every time I have violated that knowledge, I have suffered. I just take life as it comes and do the best I can with it.

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