False facts that actually changed the world

We thought sight was based on invisible eye-beams, and it shaped world superstitions

We’ve always been vaguely aware of the fact that our eyeballs process the information from the world around us and make brain-pictures, but we’re historically iffy on mechanics. According to ancient Greek scientists, our eyes worked because they contained some kind of fire that streamed out from our faces and scanned the world around us, sort of like a benign version of the X-Men’s Cyclops. Charles G. Gross’s article in The Neuroscientist says that the theory was accepted as science for a long time, and that it started one of world’s most widespread superstitions: the evil eye.

Gross says that belief in the evil eye and the idea that we can feel someone looking at us is rooted in the idea of extramission vision, and the concept of the evil eye is found in a huge number of cultures and religions. It spans Islam, Judaism and Christianity, it’s repeated from Eastern Europe to America. Cultures have their own charms and wards against the evil eye, and it’s always a curse, and it’s always the act of looking that causes it. It causes everything from bad luck and illness to natural disasters, and we still ward ourselves against it in the 21st century. So stop staring. It really is impolite.