I’m a Ph.D student. I don’t write this to brag or infer that I’m an authority on any subject matter. Instead I write this because it’s central to this one cognitive failure I make again and again. Despite thinking of myself as a skeptic, I am almost always apprehensive about “tempting fate” in regards to my educational goals.
About once a week a bunch of us in the international studies department meet up for beers at a local pub to unwind and relax after a grueling week of graduate studies, conferences, presentations, and other associated work. A master’s student from another department often tags along since his girlfriend is in my program. He and I share the same name, and in order to alleviate some of the confusion, he suggested everyone call me Doctor Cowboy. I’m working on a doctorate and often wear a cowboy hat, so I can see where he’s coming from, but I also had to decline that title.
I feel as if it’s bad luck or tempting fate to call me Doctor prematurely—not to mention I haven’t earned the title yet. This is a major cognitive failure on my part. There’s absolutely no rational reason to think allowing people to call me Doctor will have any impact on whether or not I graduate the doctoral program. And the worst part is that I knew this was irrational even when I told him not to tempt fate.
Whether or not I earn the title Doctor depends solely on how much effort I’m willing to put into earning the title. But this is so important to me that I’m stupidly superstitious about a very trivial nickname. I guess this goes to show you that even Western educated, skeptical atheists can make classic errors in thinking. But I don’t judge myself for it. I know humans are hard wired to attribute cause everywhere.
And even though I’m publicly confessing that I often make this error, I’m going to continue to make it.
I don’t think I’m alone here, either. I bet some of you atheists out there secretly fear tempting fate too.