Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Astrology a load of rubbish?

Astrologers, particularly those in the UK, have recently been upset by a remark made during a TV programme,
Wonders of the Solar System. From a post dated 11 April at Collaborate with Fate, the blog of astrologer Kathryn Cassidy, and a link she provides, I discovered that the offending remark, made by a Professor Brian Cox went something like this:

"Now astrologists have said for years that Jupiter influences our lives. But we now have scientific evidence that this mighty planet does have a significant connection with our own small world.

Now, Jupiter is so different to our planet… a big ball of gas half a billion kms away. It’s difficult to see how it could have anything to do with us at all. But despite the fact that astrology is a load of rubbish, Jupiter can in fact, have a profound influence on our planet. And it’s through a force … gravity."

Stating baldly that astrology is "a load of rubbish" on public TV, without further question or debate on the matter seems hardly in keeping with the type of programme he was presenting. He stated his opinion, not a fact. If the rest of the programme met the same opinionated standard, then I'm pleased it isn't available to investigate here in the USA.

The BBC and British TV in general has long nurtured a very jaundiced view of astrology. BBC is funded by the public, via an annual licence fee. This was well over 100 pounds (about $150) a year when I left the UK, and is probably higher now. A publicly funded service should keep its entire audience in mind. The BBC was always keen to avoid offending minority groups, but it seems that astrologers and those interested in the subject are not considered important enough to be accorded the same courtesy. Prof. Cox had no need to mention astrology at all, but just couldn't resist taking the standard elitist poke at it.

Astrology isn't rubbish. There - that's a fact!

Astrology is a centuries old discipline, a part of human history. It deserves respect on that count alone. I'm the first to admit that, in the form handed down to us, astrology has problems. Centuries of "helpful" experts have added items to its doctrine, embellished a bit here, changed and modified a bit there, updated and enlarged its purview. But at the center of astrology, right at its core, I am convinced there is something very, very valuable.

A couple of recent threads at the Skyscript forum indicate that some current astrologers are feeling particularly concerned about astrology being seen as working via "causal" means. By that is meant that the planets might be thought to emit some kind of rays or energies which cause events or character traits to manifest. I certainly don't think there are planetary rays beating down upon us from the heavens. My best guess is that the planets and their regular cycles act as markers on the waves of time in space, and that some quality carried within the waves of time in space is key to it all. In order to use astrology we need the information contained in an ephemeris (a timetable of planetary positions). Without that information astrology could not exist. My best guess might still be seen as espousing a causal "mechanism", but it's not at all the same as the old ray theory from the 19th and early 20th century.

There will be more, much more, as yet unimaginable, to be discovered by scientists and physicists. Professor Cox conveniently makes no allowance for this, and acts as though he knows everything.

Astrology's true core will be revealed and fully understood....one day. I'm sure of it.


Rossa said...

The TV licence has just gone up to £145.50 from April 1 and I quite agree about your comments about the BBC. Despite claiming to provide a public service there are too many so called mainstream presenters that dismiss out of hand any esoteric ideas because it is not the approved line to take.

Unfortunately this extends into all areas, currently politics, with bias still rampant. Too many of the executives at the BBC seem to want to indulge in blatant propaganda or support for their own agendas. There's a great blog called Biased BBC that exposes some of the things they have been up to.


The climate change debate is also a good example. Regardless of anyone's opinion on the matter the fact is that a lot of the BBC reporters are active on the pro-AGW side and the BBC has funded a number of outside organisations to spread what is in effect indoctrination. That is what I object too. It's not the message per se, it's the method of spreading it as some sort of gospel according to the BBC which is why the labels bandied around have religious connotations.

Unfortunately freedom of speech and ideas is not something that is alive and well at the BBC and we're all paying for it in more ways than one.

Off soapbox now. R

Twilight said...

Rossa ~~ 145 pounds - WOW!
It sounds as though BBC is going the way of all flesh - to Hell in a handcart. ;-) A great pity.

The sorts of thing you mention are the norm here in the USA, the only way to avoid brainwash is to avoid news and opinion programmes of all stripes, shield eyes from public billboards and such, and generally live like a hermit. I'm getting there!

Shannon said...

"Rubbish" stories like this always remind me of Carl Sagan's short video piece from a long time ago, where he tries to imply, among other things, that astrologers don't take gravity seriously.

"Astrology suggests a dangerous fatalism; if our lives are controlled by a set of traffic signals in the sky, why try to change anything?"

Yes yes of course, that's all we do, Carl. It's irritating because he did some research on the history of astronomy and astrology, then veered off into snide opining and a reading of some newspaper sun sign columns.

Ironically, more than a few astrologers would agree with him that newspaper horoscopes are mostly garbage.

Found you via Astrodienst. Great post!

Wisewebwoman said...

"And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Shakespeare, via Hamlet, said it best of all.

How supremely arrogant, to think one's opinion is the Second Coming and should be treated as such. Via Lord-and-paid-for-Master BBC.

Thanks for kicking him to the curb for us, T!


Twilight said...

Shannon ~ Hi there!
Ah! Carl Sagan - can't help lovin' him in spite of his attitude towards astrology. I wonder, if he'd lived, whether he'd have become more entrenched in his attitudes, or - perhaps - would have relented a bit? My favourite quote of his:
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
That "something" could throw a light in some very dark corners somehow related to astrology. :-)

Scicence professional elitists are afraid of seeming credulous or daft in the eyes of their peers. I suspect there's some of that going on.

As for Sun sign columns - I look on the best of them as "gatekeepers", they engage people who find an interest in the subject and provide a first step.
Without them, I don't think astrology would be even as alive as it is today. Some syndicated columns in small town newspapers though are definitely garbage.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ I try never to miss an opportunity to do so - not that any of 'em ever read my meanderings. ;-)

Shakespeare was wise before his time (I wonder if he was Francis Bacon in disguise after all....?)

R J Adams said...

Personally I find Brian Cox somewhat immature for his 42 years, or, at least, his mannerisms. There's no doubt he knows his subject. I've been watching 'Wonders of the Solar System', and as an uptodate resume of astronomical knowledge (at least, with regard to our own backyard) it's been very informative.
Throughout all five episodes I've found myself wishing it was Sagan in the driving seat rather than Cox. He may appeal to hormonal teenage girls, but he lacks the maturity and sheer poetry of Carl.

There are few scientists in this field prepared to acknowledge the possibility that astrology is anything other than mumbo-jumbo. It's because it cannot be verified in a scientific manner. However, that's no excuse for Cox dismissing it in such a derisory way. He had no reason to mention astrology. As you rightly state, he took the opportunity to have a poke at it.
I find that unforgivable, in much the same way I detest Dawkins and Hitchins for their arrogant 'anti-God' stance. A little knowledge is dangerous, and scientists today still barely understand the workings of the universe (they can't even find 98% of it!) so how can they be so sure of anything? Only by their arrogance.
Don't be too hard on the BBC. Their programming is a breath of fresh air compared to the crap churned out over here.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~ It's good to have your view on this RJ - thanks!

I don't remember ever having seen Brian Cox, though the name seems familiar - maybe there was an actor of the same name - I think so.

Scientists in general have a god complex - maybe it goes with the job. ;-) Now and again I've come across one who is open-minded enough to refrain from publicly decrying astrology, but it's rare.

Carl Sagan, in my eyes, can/could do no wrong. Love him!

Dawkins and Hitchens annoy me. I dislike organised religion and may as well call myself an atheist, but the way they go about expressing themselves on that topic, and on astrology (Dawkins), is offensive.

I'll not criticise old Auntie Beeb too much then. She still turns out some excellent drama, and is probably as near to being "fair and balanced", news-wise, as media will ever get these days.