16 August 2011

A note on Astrology....

The Abysmal Failure of Astrology or STFU about your stars..

A new day can always be counted upon to to offer fresh outrages, as well as the constant and recurrent. The daily astrology column, and its adherents take the form of the latter. These columns can be seen, and if you like, read, in almost any newspaper across the country (though these columns differ from paper to paper...why should that be?). At my local Starbucks the behavior of astrology fans is likewise a constant and daily source of outrage and disappointment. There are many ways to dismantle the arguments of the astrologers, but here is the argument I find most satisfying when laying waste to the pretensions of this ancient and exploded stupidity. The thrust of this argument is perhaps not original to me however I haven't heard it phrased quite this way before.

Perhaps you are looking at your horoscope and see that you, an Aquarius, have not lost your tendency to carry water, but are, nevertheless, about to embark on a five star day. Among fellow Zodiac travelers you are not alone, on this day Sagittarians (archers I guess), and Geminis (twins?) have similar positive auguries and can also expect to have a five star day (I've pulled these "predictions" from a daily horoscope found in the Portland Press Herald, dated, 13 Aug 2010). To see and hear it, many recipients of such portents find them to be quite prescient, convincing and accurate. At least these people don't demand their fortunes be told in the entrails of chickens or goats. But surely you yourself have heard someone exclaim, and exclaim is certainly the right word, "This is exactly what is happening," or maybe, "This is sooo spooky, its so accurate. That is totally you." Perhaps you have uttered something very like that,and have felt compelled to bore your fellow humans with this "news." Let me say this, gullibility displayed so nakedly is embarrassing enough to cause strangers to look away.

According to those "trained" in such arcana the predictions for any given sign are quite binding, and can be expected to unfold for anyone sharing any of the 12 Zodiac signs. In the example above, all Gemini, Sagittarians, and Aquarians can be expected to have a day characterized by five stars and some accompanying vaguery (i.e. A coworker likes you, be circumspect but remember boisterousness has its place). When I listen to such people, who-it must be said- are displaying a fairly grotesque solipsism, I am moved make a few points.

According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die every day from preventable diseases. This number is down from just a few years ago where 25,000 children died a day. For the new estimate, that leads to the depressing but unavoidable conclusion that 8.03 x 106 children die every year from utterly preventable diseases, and conditions. That is to say eight million thirty thousand kids die a year. A year. What does that have to do with astrology you ask? Well I am glad you did.

We have established, thanks to the tireless efforts of UNICEF, twenty two thousand children die every single day. Lets assume an even distribution of that twenty two thousand across the twelve signs of the fatuous Zodiac (this seems like a reasonable assumption). So that will distribute 1/12 of the 22,000 to each of the signs. If there is a more or less even distribution that gives us about 1,833 per sign. Returning to my example above, about 5,500 of those kids had a five star day! Many of those children will have died in some considerable pain, confused and scared. How many of those children, whose last day it was, would have remarked on the accuracy of those silly, and completely wrong predictions? Do you think the children dying of some pathogen causing explosive diarrhea and extreme, unremitting dehydration might have thought their three star predictions were pretty on point? Spookily Accurate? Would any of these expirations be considered a legitimate one star day? Hmmm? Why do the portents of the stars not apply to these children?

Now think of the appallingly large number of miserable, suffering people in the world that didn't die, but maybe share your (unimportant) birth month. Compare your day's astrological prediction (five stars you say?) with the experience of these hypothetical people that you know exist (think of Afghanistan, North Korea, Pakistan, Uganda, hell even in the developed world people can suffer horribly) but that you have not met, and then tell me again how accurate you think that silly "prediction" is. Maybe now we can hear a little bit less about how brutally accurate your vaguely phrased augury was, and maybe we can hear a little bit less of that idiotic, content-less question...What's your sign?

Author's Note If you are tempted to buy material associated with, or about astrology and to do so credulously let me suggest that you money and time might be better spent. Instead of that book about your readings for the year, and before you renew your subscription to your favorite astrological website you could click on the title of this entry and donate the money you were going to spend on that bullshit on something a bit better for everyone. The link takes you to UNICEF, and there they will explain to you why you should donate.

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At 9:22 AM , Blogger Bill Perron said...

This is such a nonsense blog, astrology is not what you read in the daily newspaper, that is called fun entertainment, if you really want to read something about astrology that has been very well researched read "Cosmos and Psyche" by Tarnas. 30 years of astrological research went into this tome. The producer of this blog has not done his research at all if he hasn't read "Cosmos and Psych his opinions which only serve to expose his ignorance on the subject of astrology.

At 9:24 AM , Blogger Bill Perron said...

"Cosmos and Psyche" by Tarnas. Read and learn what the pseudo skeptics fear most, the truth.

At 7:49 PM , Blogger Scot Rafkin said...

Bill, I suppose you'd be upset if leprechauns were called out as nonsense having not read the latest tome on leprechaunology. Your emperor has no clothes. Astrology is bullshit.

At 8:04 PM , OpenID alexandersafir said...

Max, I could not have said it better than when you wrote

"gullibility displayed so nakedly is embarrassing enough to cause strangers to look away."

Don't you think that applies equally for those who squeal, agape, "that's so spooky!" as for those who righteously invoke grotesque pseudo-research.

One such example of pseudo-research (that's convenient!) never quite finds the conviction to make a tangible point -- after how many hundreds of pages? I note that Richard Tarnas does a lot of intimating! Citing evidence, outright for the purpose of carrying his point would naturally invalidate his thesis!

The worst aspect of Astrology shares that of the worst of any cult, mania, bad habit, or dictatorship: The loss of dignity. Worse than loss, even: The voluntary subjugation of one's self, not to others in a (perhaps misguided) sign of solidarity, but to invisible and invented Powers who would carelessly and with no thought about partnership, tinker with your destiny.

At 8:01 AM , Blogger Max II said...

Asserting that my blog is nonsense, is not even close to the same thing as demonstrating that fact. You may call the daily Astrology column "entertainment" (it isn't or at least not in the way you intend) but my experience is that people put a massive amount of stock in both their daily readings, and the descriptions of themselves offered by the astrologers.

I don't have to read Cosmos and Psyche by Tarnas to dismantle the basic, non-rarefied nonsense of astrology. Scot Rafkin is correct when he observed (see comments) that to refute the basics of astrology, is to refute the whole damn thing. I needn't trouble myself with sophisticated aspects of this ancient silliness because it is built on a gooey foundation of bullshit. Unless you can point me to some significant papers in peer-reviewed journals that demonstrate some positive evidence for the claims of the astrologers then why should I go looking further into the subject? You didn't even refute a single point I made in my criticism of astrology. You merely make assertions, provide nothing in support except a book with a silly title.

At 8:11 AM , Blogger Max II said...

I am in complete agreement with you about the problem astrology shares with other cults, particularly when you say: ..voluntary subjugation of one's self, not to others in a (perhaps misguided) sign of solidarity, but to invisible and invented Powers who would carelessly and with no thought about partnership, tinker with your destiny.

Astrology not only dooms people who believe in its pretensions into thinking of themselves in a certain way, but it also actively prescribes courses of action, who you should date, what kind of work you should do etc. Imagine how many good friendships, lovers, and jobs have been lost and avoided by listening to these charlatans.

About a month ago I listened to two people discussing the potential of a relationship, and these astrological musings on who can date who successfully were a serious point of the discussion. It was a glistening and steaming example of woo and the way it. damages people

At 8:42 AM , Blogger Bill Perron said...

Oh my goodness thank you all for your comments they are all appreciated. I grow in awareness when I encounter opinions that differ from mine, they will either change the way I see something, or my views and understanding will be strengthened and grow by the testing, as is the case here.

At 1:54 AM , Blogger Kayfr said...

Well written and explained de-bunking of dangerous rubbish. Thanks - just found this.

At 9:16 AM , Blogger Bill Perron said...

Another really good read is STARBABY by Rawlins, it can be read on the internet. Rawlins, a scientific astronomer was a founding member of CSICOP a pseudo "scientific" investigation group that committed fraud in their quest to debunk astrology. They actually verified the Gauquelin astrological research. Rawlins was the only member to have the integrity to expose the truth of the corruption that can be observed by so called scientific researchers when encountering an activity that goes against their preconceived agenda. Sort of like a lot of the fearful pseudo intellectuals who post here might be accused of doing occasionally whenever encountering something they refuse to accept, and who habitually and self righteously demean in a very mean spirited way others who exercise their right to draw their own conclusions from the evidence presented. Thank you again for your comments, shallow and superficial as they are, and not that I haven't heard them before, it is good to see folks exercise their right to speak out.

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