Astrology and Skeptics: When An Opinion Is Not A Fact

2921288464_fec22107eb_z (Astrology Explored) It started innocently enough with a person asking an astrologer to read his palm. I declined to do this, but a skeptic weighed in with this response:

My advice is that you do not attach any significance whatsoever to anybody who claim to be able to tell the future by reading palms, the stars, etc. Palmistry and astrology is pseudoscientific nonsense and it has been thoroughly debunked scientifically.

To which I replied:

Please cite the scientific papers that support your claims.

And this is the response I received:

Comment: “The scientific community rejects astrology as having no explanatory power for describing the universe, and consider it a pseudoscience. Scientific testing of astrology has been conducted, and no evidence has been found to support any of the premises or purported effects outlined in astrological traditions. There is no proposed mechanism of action by which the positions and motions of stars and planets could affect people and events on Earth that does not contradict well understood, basic aspects of biology and physics. Those who continue to have faith in astrology have been characterized as doing so “…in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary.”

Kindly see citations at the bottom:

en-wikipedia-org/wiki/Astrology

So, of course, I had to respond.

1.) Comment:”The scientific community rejects astrology as having no explanatory power for describing the universe, and consider it a pseudoscience.”

It is not the entire scientific community that rejects astrology, but a specific group that promotes the rejection of anything they consider supernatural. This group us the Humanists who promote atheism. Anything other than a rejection of God or any “supernatural” force is unacceptable to the Humanists. I wrote about here:

Astrology and the Skeptics: Debunkers Tool of a Religious Agenda?

And here:

Atheists, Humanists and Astrology: What You Should Know

2.) Scientific testing of astrology has been conducted, and no evidence has been found to support any of the premises or purported effects outlined in astrological traditions

Again, this assertion that is patently untrue. I wrote about that here:

Astrology and the Skeptics: An Open Letter to Dr. Rebekah Higgitt

3.) There is no proposed mechanism of action by which the positions and motions of stars and planets could affect people and events on Earth that does not contradict well understood, basic aspects of biology and physics.

Then you are behind in your understanding of quantum physics. You can read my article here:

Astrology and Science: Scientific Determinism’s Dangerous Ground

4.) Those who continue to have faith in astrology have been characterized as doing so “…in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary.”

I refer you again to point 2.

5.) Kindly see citations at the bottom:

en-wikipedia-org/wiki/Astrology”

Lest you think that Wikipedia Editor has presented a true account of astrology, you can read my recounting of the edit war against the people who are best qualified to present astrology—astrologers.

Wikipedia’s War Against Astrology: Jimmy Wales–Are You Listening?

Again, I invite you to provide direct scientific proof that astrology is false, from qualified, unbiased scientists. I’m sincerely interested in that. I’ve been unable to find same, but perhaps you have access to sources that I do not. In the meantime, I submit that you’ve only provided an opinion, which is your right. But opinion is not scientific evidence. Otherwise, we’d still believe the earth is flat.

Sincerely,

Beth Turnage

Photo published under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Marcin Chady

Astrology and Science: Scientific Determinism’s Dangerous Ground

(Astrology Explored) Since the Age of Reason, rationalists like the Humanists have claimed that Astrology is superstition, the fluff and nonsense of irrational minds. Yet the closer we get to nailing down the nature of the Universe, the harder it is for those opposed to astrology to claim a scientific basis for their view.

This astrologer is reading Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design, a slim yet meaty volume that lays out the thesis (spoiler alert) that M-Theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the Universe.

Two important theoretical concepts combine to form the nucleus of M-theory.

The first is Supersymmetry (1), a theory that attempts to corral the seemingly erratic motions or “spin” of the subatomic particles known as quarks into predictable models of interaction. There is no direct evidence for Supersymmetry, but the existence of Supersymmetry is suggested by the theory of “Supergravity”.

What fuels the idea of Supersymmetry is the work of Richard Feynman. He pioneered work in quantum mechanics that theorized that the interaction of electrons and photons sends electrons forward and back again in time putting the electrons in two places at once.

The next concept, supergravity, is described in Wikipedia as “field theory that combines the principles of supersymmetry and general relativity.” (2)

M-Theory postulates there are eleven dimensions tied together by “supergravity interacting with 2- and 5-dimensional membranes.” (3). As such it is an extension of “string theory”. Wikipedia tells us about string theory (4):

String theory is an active research framework in particle physics that attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity. It is a contender for a theory of everything (TOE), a self-contained mathematical model that describes all fundamental forces and forms of matter.

If all that is too much to digest with your morning latte, just note that physicists are on the trail of a theory that describes a Universe that is in essence a self-sustaining and self-interacting perpetual motion machine. It exists because the forces of nature can’t help but to exist. God need not apply.

This idea is just fine by Hawking, who seems to take comfort in Scientific Determinism (5).

Given the state of the universe at one time, a complete set of laws fully determines both the future and the past. This would exclude the possibility of miracles or an active role for God. . . It is, in fact, the basis of all modern science, and a principle that is important throughout this book. A scientific law is not a scientific law if it holds only when some supernatural being decides not to intervene.

.
By extension, free will, appears to exist only because the mathematic calculations it would take to determine what action a person ultimately takes is too complex for the human mind to grasp. (6) The human brain works by “effective theory” (7).

In physics, effective theory is a framework created to model certain observed phenomena without describing in detail all the underlying processes.

.
In other words, the human brain is prediction machine.

So even if the human can’t make the calculations to parse the interactions of subatomic particles we are only acting in accordance with the motion of these subatomic particles. And according the work of Richard Feynman these complex interactions can tie dissimilar events together. With this observation it is scientifically possible for a planetary astrological event to concur with an event in a human life.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time humans thought about the Universe in this way. This theoretical model coincides with the ancient Hermetic axiom “As above, so below”. Jung, independent of physics, coined the term “synchronicity” to describe how two disparate events non-the-less appear to relate to each other in a meaningful way (8).

So if M-theory is the Theory of Everything it provides problems to rationalists. The closer you get to nailing DOWN how the Universe works, Scientific Determinism treads the dangerous ground of confirming that Astrology has a scientific basis after all.

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References

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supersymmetry
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supergravity
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-theory
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_theory
(5) Hawking, The Grand Design, pg. 30
(6) Hawking, The Grand Design, pg. 32
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_theory
(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity
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Photo titled “Fairy Holding Superstring Model of the Multiverse” created from elements from Creative Commons licensed pieces from Flickr, Wikipedia and public information from NASA’s Photojournal. As such you are free to display the work without alteration with appropriate attribution to this page.

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