The Meaning of Comets and Asteroids Throughout History and the Fallacy of Patterns

Comets and asteroids meant different things to different cultures throughout history. To the Masai of East Africa they meant famine, to the Zulu of South Africa they meant war, to the Ighat* of West Africa they meant disease, to the Jaga of Sier* they meant smallpox, and to their neighbors the Luba, they foretold the death of a leader. The Chinese tracked and cataloged comets and asteroids starting in 1400 B.C. In Chinese mythology, a 3 tailed comet or asteroid meant calamity for the state, and a 4 tailed comet or asteroid signaled an epidemic was coming. The human being ability to recognize patterns can be a double edged sword as it can lead us to believe a pattern exists when really there is no correlation between the before scenario and after event. This phenomena is referred to as “post hoc ergo propter hoc” which is Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”. Post hoc ergo propter hoc explains a logical fallacy which states “since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.” This theory of thought is often shortened to simply “post hoc fallacy”. An example of this incorrect theory of thought would be “the rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise”. Oddly enough, the reason roosters crow at sunrise is because they actually believe they are prompting the sun to rise into the sky due to their limited brain capacity and ability to utilize logic and/or reason

*spelling may be slightly inaccurate for the indigenous people listed

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