The pull of the planets. Pull pull pull.

Posted on 18 June 2010

I usually can’t be bothered pointing out superstition and debunking it. When people ask me what star-sign I am, I generally let them know I’m a Cancer. Such a question is generally followed up with some kind of observation about my personality that fits with the Cancer-ian dealy. Or an exclamation about some other reason why that’s meaningful.

Ultimately, people are just so pervasively superstitious that to run around constantly pointing out the folly would occupy most of my time and certainly wouldn’t win me too many friends. So I choose not to. However!

That doesn’t mean that I don’t get a bit of a smile on my face when someone else makes the effort. Today’s quick and entertaining lunchtime read comes from Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog, taking a good hard look at astrology. He takes the time to dissect how:

  • There exists no known force which is a suitable candidate for creating astrological influence.
  • Based on astrology’s own set of conditions, there seems to be no possible unknown force either.
  • That cold reading and human pattern-bias explain accurate-seeming predictions.
  • That astrology’s claims are not consistent, nor even internally consistent – and utterly lack any predictive power.
  • Finally, that reliance upon astrology creates actual, demonstrable harm.

Scattered throughout, there are a bunch of links to help illustrate this position. Give it a read! If you’re wondering how I got here, it’s from a much more recent blog post of his about a nutjob named Terry Nazon’s attacks on an astronomer named Stuart Robbins following a good debunking. Check that out too, if you like!


4 responses to The pull of the planets. Pull pull pull.

  • Peter says:

    That one post set off a chain of article reading that has written off my afternoon. Nice.

  • Ofir says:

    That was a damn good article. Though I doubt the people who ask me what star sign I am will be swayed by evidence or logic. Writing this comment on a bus on the way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I just passed a sign saying “The Messiah is in Tel Aviv”. It’s not a clever play on words or a euphemism, it’s even got a picture of “the messiah” on it and an e-mail address. Wanting something to be true is, sadly, a much stronger force than investigating a claim and basing your opinion on the best evidence available.

  • Cameron says:

    Oh, most definitely. It’s why I don’t waste my breath arguing with people the vast majority of the time. People are not rational agents, generally (myself included).

    My Dad pointed out to me once, and I can’t remember where he got it from, that people very rarely make rational decisions. They make emotional decisions, then rationalise them.

    Sounds about right to me.

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