Star Craft.

Anatomical Man, Les Très Riches Heures du duc ...

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My Life for Ire.

For the last few days, an amusing little news report has caught the attention of a large number of believers and non-believers alike; apparently the Zodiac, and therefore all astrology, is inaccurate, according to the research of an astronomer from Minnesota.[1] Because we didn’t know that astrology was hocus pocus nonsense already. In fairness, the relevant point being made by the Minneapolitan is that the moon’s gravity has such an effect on the earth that the Zodiac used by astrologers is one month out of sequence with reality, and, as a bonus inconsistency, they are also ignoring a 13th sign. The original article which brought this to light does mention that astronomers and astrologers have known of this disparity for decades, but have remained silent on the issue as, well, it hardly matters, does it? It’s astrology, who cares?

What is your major malfunction?

I thought little of this debate, it is nonsense after all, until I came across several articles which essentially hope to calm the fears of believers[2]; their signs, contrary to the hurtful words of the bad scientist man, have not changed, according to the helpful and foresight-gifted astrologers, who are in no way economically dependent on sustaining a system of belief which has no true predictive properties but still manages to draw a good deal of money from the gullible. The general theme was one of “Don’t worry”, which should have been followed immediately by “all this Zodiac stuff is an edifice carefully constructed, yet still utterly meaningless, from monkey filth, and the monkey who made it is lying to you”, but, sadly, all the reports clamour to point out “you star-sign hasn’t changed”. Because that’s the key piece of information to take from the debate. A Leo is still a Leo, and has all the inherent attributes of a Leo gifted to them by the stars, because Western astrologers follow a tropical system. Point missed; well done Media. This is a non-story; the first article was entertaining, and possibly illuminating to some, but to allow astrologers to retort grants them a level of credibility they should not be given.

Science, it works…

Nicolaus Copernicus portrait from Town Hall in...

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Astrology and astronomy were one and the same thing for most of human history, just as chemistry was once alchemy, and medicine was witchcraft. But then, things changed; the Enlightenment took hold. From ill-conceived half-truths and unsupported conjectures we derived theories and facts; we separated the chaff from the wheat, the nut from the shell. It was a defining point in human history.The valuable stuff that made the cut became science, the detritus became fashionably ‘alternative’. Reason and academic rigour were born and gave rise to the modern scientific, secular, world. Nonsense masquerading as science has survived both on the fringes of society, and in popular culture, in tabloids, and, increasingly, on the Internet. Copernicus hammered the first nail in the coffin of geocentric religion with his heliocentric model of the solar system, and, building on that, it was eventually discovered that we live on a small planet in the middle of nowhere in a very big somewhere. After hundreds of years suffering under the tyranny of Ptolemy’s unchanging modal of the universe, which the astrologers still adhere to like barnacles, a new system emerged which used observation, mathematics, and reason to design a modal which had true predictive value. Conveniently, when Copernicus and his ilk carved the pith of nonsense from the flesh of facts, they not only shook faith in a supreme deity to its core, they also divided astronomy from astrology. Taking data, building a theory, and then testing it through observation, and then of course refining the theory, provided us with a neat and practical modal of how the universe worked, which is far more useful than making stuff up based on broad generalities and coincidence. Astronomers dumped everything else, everything that made no sense, that couldn’t be proved, that couldn’t be falsified. Stars are enormous balls of gas and fire, they don’t care if you were born in July, they can’t predict if that Libra you met online is the person you have been waiting for, they won’t give you next week’s lotto numbers, and they don’t want you to be happy. Stay out in the sun too long and you’ll see how much a star likes you.

Unnecessary Atavism.

This minor conflict between astrologers and astronomers is indicative of a larger issue. People believe in astrology, a lot of people; one would be too many. It is a strangely popular ailment, it appears in countless newspapers and magazines. On the other hand, it is not as insidious as religion, and there’s a church, synagogue, mosque, or some kind of temple in every city and village in the world. Astrology is not unlike alternative medicine, except I’ve never heard of anyone dying from astrology. It doesn’t appear to be a ‘bad thing’. Astrology in the same vein of tedium as tarot reading and ghosts, superstitions which endure, but still not as damaging as other such nonsense, like creationism and faith-based ‘science’, which seem to be increasing in popularity. This may be a response to the increasingly secular and rational world we live in, another omen of which is the rise in religious conservatism and extremism. There is a war on science waged by ignorance, and astrology is an accessory to this crime. You may think I am exaggerating the dangers of this zodiac fantasy, but it is a symptom, an awkward itch, of a greater and ever more virulent disease; the trend towards the alternative, no matter how daft it is. It’s one thing to read your star-sign in the paper for fun, or the Bible as literature, another thing entirely to actually believe it; chicanery paraded as fact is to be regarded with contempt. Fairies and star-signs, humans and dinosaurs living side-by-side, a ‘museum’ dedicated to Noah’s Ark, homeopathic ‘remedies’, ghost-hunters on TV, men in dresses who pontificate about morality, conspiracy theorists; delusion and ignorance are laying claim to the world, and they must be resisted, and driven back to the abyss.

A Subtle Heresy.

As a final note, if you are a member of any of the major Christian faiths (and probably Judaism and Islam too, but I’m not entirely sure), and you believe in astrology, you are a heretic. Astrology is paganism, possibly even borderline idolatry. According to the Bible, astrologers are bound for Hell, Isaiah 47:13-14 “Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from [these things] that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame…”. On the other hand, the three Magi were astrologers, so clearly the Bible has mixed views on the issue. Either way, one’s a myth and the other is a superstition, and it doesn’t really matter which is which.

Ceterum autem censeo, religionem esse delendam.


[1] http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/style/113100139.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12199980

[2] http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/no-your-zodiac-sign-hasnt-changed/
http://edition.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/01/14/zodiac.signs.identity.crisis.online/index.html?iref=NS1
http://www.ecanadanow.com/lifestyle/2011/01/15/new-astrological-signs-2011-13th-sign-added-update/comment-page-1/

There are many, many more such articles and posts decrying this radical idea of astrology not being true… I do quite like the sarcastic tone of this one though –

http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/01/13/horoscope-hang-up-earth-rotation-changes-zodiac-signs/

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