Declan Kiberd is forever quoting the story about the old Irish peasant who’s asked whether or not she believes in the fairies. ‘Of course I don’t, she answers indignantly, ‘but they’re there.’
A variant of can be found in the story of an American visiting Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen, and finding a horseshoe nailed to the wall over his desk.
The visitor asked Bohr how he could believe in a superstition like the luck-bearing powers of a horseshoe. Of course I don’t believe that, Bohr answered, ‘but I hear it works whether you believe in it or not.’