Astrology Not Nonsense After All

Okay and now that we’ve got it straight that I have no choice but to go on being smugly complacently in favour of rational inquiry as opposed to the other thing, let’s drop in on the Independent and see what it has to say about astrology.

The massive power of waves and the tides that cause them are, it is universally accepted, a direct consequence of the gravitational influences of the Moon and the Sun upon Earth. We also know that the Moon sometimes determines animal behaviour and has long been linked with aspects of our lives as diverse as a women’s menstrual cycle and mental disturbance, hence the word lunatic. Is it, astrologists argue, therefore completely impossible that the other planets also exert influences on our lives and personalities, to greater or lesser degrees and in varying combinations?

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen anything quite as ridiculous as that, at least in a respectable newspaper. (Okay, not counting Bunting.) Note the discrepancy between ‘it is universally accepted’ in the first sentence and the much vaguer ‘we also know’ in the second. Who’s we, bub? And what do you mean ‘know’? And once we’ve got that clear – what on earth do you mean by ‘the Moon sometimes determines animal behaviour’? You mean like wolves howling at it? Or you mean like the moon turning bats into vampires? And then when we’re clear about that, what in the sam hill do you mean by ‘has long been linked with aspects of our lives as diverse as a women’s menstrual cycle and mental disturbance’? Eh? What do you mean ‘linked with’ for a start? You mean correlated with? You mean somebody has said ‘Hey, Clara went barking mad when the moon was almost full, and that other woman across town went a little funny during an eclipse’? Saying the moon has ‘long been linked with’ women’s ‘mental disturbance’ is perfectly compatible with simply saying that a lot of people who didn’t know much about either the moon or women’s brains have made random speculative correlations between the moon and women flipping out – which isn’t saying much. (Neither is ‘hence the word lunatic’. We know whence the word lunatic, you prat, that doesn’t constitute evidence that the moon does in fact make women go crazy, it just constitutes evidence that people thought the moon made people go crazy.) And then the descent into complete raving in the last sentence. Who knows whether it’s ‘completely impossible’ or not, but that’s not the issue; the issue is that there’s no reason to think so. Woolly thinkers always babble about proof and certainty and completely impossible, when those are not what’s at stake. Anyway – how did Terry Kirby get from the waves and the tides to ‘influences on our lives and personalities’? (By sly stages, that’s how. Waves and tides, to animal behaviour, to aspects of our lives such as menstruation and mental disturbance, to influences on our lives and personalities – as if they were all pretty much the same kind of thing. Well they’re not. If Kirby knows of some evidence that gravity influences our personalities the same way it influences the tides, I’d be curious to see it.) And then there’s ‘the other planets,’ meaning in addition to the moon and the sun. Err…

And that, having been around in various forms since the ancient Babylonians first began to describe celestial omens 4,000 years ago, astrology deserves more respect than the derision commonly accorded it by the rational scientists and the established churches[?]

Well there’s a stupid ‘argument’. Lots of things have ‘been around’ for four thousand years or more, but that doesn’t automatically mean they ‘deserve’ ‘respect’ – why would it? Stupid ideas don’t become less stupid as they get older; often the contrary is true, as better information becomes available. The four humours were around for a long time too; does that mean they ‘deserve’ ‘respect’ now?

Marlene Houghton, an astrologer for more than 30 years, puts it another way. “Astrology is a metaphysical doctrine, not a science, and cannot be easily judged by the narrow instrument that is science.”

Yupuhuh. Also known as the easy out. Astrology is a ‘metaphysical doctrine’ – okay, but then if it claims that distant planets do in fact ‘exert influences on our lives and personalities’ then it is making non-metaphysical truth claims, and doesn’t get to wiggle out of noticing disconfirming evidence with handwaving about metaphysical doctrines. That is, in the vernacular, cheating.

I’ve never seen astrology as a prop or a belief system but, as Ms Chalklin says, simply a tool to better understand the ups and downs of everyday life and help explain something about ourselves and the people we meet. It’s not rocket science, in fact, it’s not science at all. Whether you are an Aries or a Pisces, it is ultimately about people and what makes us what we are.

But if it’s a crap tool with all broken teeth and twisted prongs and dull blades and bent shafts, then what’s the point of it? How does it help anyone better understand the ups and downs of anything if it’s a great whirling cloud of vapor? How does it explain anything about ourselves and the people we meet when in fact it doesn’t explain anything at all because it’s pure raving nonsense?

Ah, the hell with it. With people like that around and the Indy publishing them, I’ll just have to go on being smug and complacent, I can’t possibly do anything else.

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