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

Wearing the guise of science one organization mounts attacks on paranormal subjects from Big Foot to psychic John Edwards. Included in their attacks is a quite well orchestrated war on astrology conducted with questionable tactics. These tactics include funding “studies” on astrology and declaring that astrology is disproved, setting up websites with disinformation on astrology, and influencing organizations like Wikipedia and the British Broadcasting system and using the argument that astrology is a pseudoscience pushing a point of view (POV) that treats astrology with derision.

One wonders why all this energy is expended to plant an image of fakery and disreputability to one profession. Real scientists know that there are more “things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies” and don’t dismiss outright what they don’t understand.

As it turns out these individuals are not motivated by science after all. The tools of this organization are a group that now call themselves the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, but who are better know by their old name CSICOPS. This organization actually produces very little in actual scientific research as their mission is to influence public opinion (1). In fact any time this organization wanders into an actual scientific investigation they have gotten their noses bloodied. One famous study that purports to disprove astrology the so called “Time Twins” study was never published, the Berkeley Double Blind study which was touted to disprove astrology was found by independent study to support the efficacy of astrology, and their investigation of the Gauguelins’ Mars Effect was found to be riddled with sloppy methodology to put it nicely. CSICOPS was founded and are supported and motivated by a singular group, one that in their early years declared themselves the new religion of the human race. These people call themselves Humanists.

Humanists claim a provenance that goes to back to the Age of Reason or in some works to the ancient Greeks, though their organizations only formed in the early 20th century. Humanists believe that religion of any type is “a disservice to humanity” and the beliefs other than strict rationalism are deleterious to our race.

At first glance Humanists seem innocuous enough. Their website proclaims:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

If you think by this statement that Humanists are organized atheists you would only be partially right. Their religion is belief system dressed up as rationalism with an all encompassing world view that includes:

Theology—atheistic (there is no God)
Philosophy—naturalist, or “only nature exists”
Ethics—man-made, relativistic morality
Biology-Darwinian evolutionism
Psychology-denial of soul and spirit.

In other words, only man and nature exist, that morality is defined by man alone and that anything other than this is a delusion created for the purpose of denying man the right to act in a “rational” manner.

Wikipedia tells us:

In the Preface of Humanist Manifesto II, the authors Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson (1973) affirm that faith and knowledge are required for a hopeful vision for the future. Manifesto II references a section on Religion and states traditional religion renders a disservice to humanity. Manifesto II recognizes the following groups to be part of their naturalistic philosophy: “scientific,” “ethical,” “democratic,” “religious,” and “Marxist” humanism.

Remember that name Paul Kurtz as we’ll meet him again shortly.

Make no mistake, Humanism is as much a religion as any of the world religions. As Hinson and Caner point out:

“. . . if secular humanism were merely secular—that is, if human life were nothing more than complex bundles of atoms moving about in a meaningless universe or multiverse—there would be no need to propound an ethic, a psychology, an economics, a legal format or a world government. However, this is not the case. Secular humanists have addressed of the ten areas of their worldview, often in great detail and with great passion.

In fact the U. S. Government gives this organization religious tax exempt status even if this a religion with no god.

And lest you think that Humanists are a small potatoes player in the world of politics listen to their mission statement:

Located in the heart of Washington D.C., the AHA brings together humanists and nontheists of all stripes together toward the cause of progressive social change. We have a base of over 11,000 members and a network of over 100 grassroots organizations. We produce a variety of publications, including our award-winning magazine the Humanist.

With our extensive local and national media contacts, our lobbying and coalition efforts on Capitol Hill and the efforts of our grassroots activists, we ensure that the humanist point of view is represented—in the halls of power, down on Main Street, and everywhere in-between.

In addition to traditional media, we engage the public through a heavy online presence, which includes our Rant & Reason blog, profiles on MySpace and Facebook, twitter and flickr accounts, and a channel on YouTube. We also publish a weekly e-zine and podcast on a monthly basis.

Our adjunct organizations defend the Jeffersonian wall of separation between church and state (AHLC), advance humanist thought in the realm of education (KHEC), delve into the ethical and moral challenges brought about by advances in biotechnology (ABC), provide aid to those most in need (HC), and apply humanism to daily life (HS).

And from the International Humanist and Ethical Union:

Aims The long term aims of IHEU are: – to promote Humanism as a non-theistic life stance throughout the world; – to promote the identity of Humanism, including the name and symbol of Humanism; – to promote the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Values as a moral charter for the world; – to promote the humanist perspective within international organizations and the international community; – to strengthen organized Humanism in every part of the world; – to build a strong and effective global organization.

In other words, the Humanists don’t want to just be in their business they want to be in yours too. And make no mistake. They have no tolerance of a worldview, or a religious view that doesn’t mesh with their own. If the belief is non-rational or supernatural in any way it is not tolerated. In this they are just like any fundamentalist religion, closed minded and operating with a single purpose.

Humanists are not minor players in the halls of power either. In their stable of notable members were Carl Sagan, Issac Asimov, Brock Chisholm – physician and first Director-General of the WHO (World Health Organization), Julian Huxley – philosopher and first Director-General of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization), John Boyd Orr – the first Director-General of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization).

And while the Humanists don’t list the “Committee of Skeptical inquiry” directly as one of their network of “over 100 grassroots organizations” it was founded in 1976 by the then editor of the Humanist Magazine, Paul Kurtz. Wikipedia tells us:

In the early 1970s, there was a significant upsurge of interest in the paranormal in the United States. This generated concern in some quarters, [my note: read the Humanists] where it was seen as part of a growing tide of irrationalism.[5] It was against this backdrop that CSICOP, as it was to become known, was officially launched by philosophy professor Paul Kurtz at a specially convened conference of the American Humanist Association (AHA) at the Amherst campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo on April 30 and May 1, 1976.[6] In 1975 Kurtz had previously initiated a statement, “Objections to Astrology,” which was endorsed by 186 scientists and published in the AHA’s newsletter The Humanist,[5] of which Kurtz was then editor. In addition, according to Kurtz, the statement was sent to every newspaper in the United States and Canada. The positive reaction to this statement encouraged Kurtz to invite “as many sceptical researchers as [he] could locate” to the 1976 conference with the aim of establishing a new organisation dedicated to critically examining a wide range of paranormal claims.[6] Amongst those invited were Martin Gardner, Ray Hyman, James Randi, and Marcello Truzzi

Astrology since aspects of it can and have been examined and validated by some scientific studies is especially threatening to the rationalist world-view of the Humanists. Astrology will always be viewed as “supernatural” by the Humanists and therefore must be eschewed.

While this astrologer is all for people living their personal truths, I don’t agree with any one organization dictating those truths for the whole of humanity. And in my opinion, representing a religious viewpoint in the guise of science is especially reprehensible.

Real scientists understand that the Universe operates on more than a strict linear rationalist fashion. They know that our gaps in knowledge are wide and our understanding of the Universe is toddler sized at best. A real scientist would hesitate to make definitive statements on any subject unless it was well proven by replicative studies.

Humanists on the other hand make hard and fast statements on a wide range of subjects and say they speak with the voice of science. In actuality since their worldview is so definitive they speak in the voice of a secular god. The next time you hear a skeptic propounding that astrology is rubbish keep in mind that this person is only tool of an agenda that is religious, not truly scientific, in nature.

_______________________________

Footnotes:

1.) New Age Religion and Western Culture by Wouter J. Hanegraaff, page 2

Photo published under a Creative Commons License from Flickr

About Beth Turnage

I write about astrology alot. Some people like to read it.
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Jan Bird says:

I’ve just come back to this page after a few days and it’s good to see such thoughtful and intelligent comments here. I’ve also re-read your post Beth, and it really has made me think hard. I’ve had a chance to reflect (thank you Mercury retro) and the more I think about humanism, the more I feel alienated from its ideas. I don’t know yet what I’m searching for, but it isn’t that. And I can entirely see the points you’re all making. I’ve grown up with the BBC, being a Brit, and am profoundly grateful that it exists. Their programmes shaped my childhood and I would still go to them for news wherever I am on the planet. I accept that I perhaps jump to their defence for that reason. And I also accept that it isn’t perfect – it can’t be, it’s run by humans! I don’t like seeing astrology ridiculed any more than anyone else – it doesn’t do any of us any favours and I agree Robert, it is vital to work together to promote it as the powerful tool it is.

Beth Turnage says:

Jan,

I could write a book about how I feel about Humanism. From their broad reaching statements about Greeks were humanists to their statements that they don’t know how many Humanists there are since many people ascribe to Humanist ideals but don’t identify themselves as Humanists, its clear these people are reaching for a world wide appeal that they haven’t captured–yet. I have no doubt that they are working actively to homogenize the human race to their agenda.

As Robert points out, its politics. As astrologers we might consider getting just as political as these folks who would deprive us of the right to be who we are. No one blames you for being patriotic about the BBC. Its a mighty institution. These people who work to discredit us “Look fair, but feels foul” as Tolkien would say. We all just need to be very aware of their tactics and work to counteract them.

Hi Beth, your article is spot on. We need astrologers like you to publish peer reviewed articles in ISAR, NCGR and Correlation or books with well-known publishers that can be cited, quoted or used to provide a case that the pseudoscience claim is merely an opinion of the ignorant and not a fact.

Hi Jane, the BBC does appear to be an organisation that strives for a balanced point of view and the claim that ‘Auntie’ could be involved in a conspiracy sounds absurd. However, we have to ask why in the 70s and 80s the BBC produced intelligent documentaries on astrology (such as Horizon) and now astrology is only tolerated in the popular ‘entertainment’ form that opens astrologers up to ridicule. Why is Brian Cox allowed to trash astrology on publicly funded programs without any argument, expertise or accountability? The BBC has given us no equivalent right of reply. Why does every historical documentary (that I have viewed) that should address astrology in the last five years (at least) airbrush out the words astrology when astrology predominated the early formation of science, religion, mythology, measurement of time, architecture, art, agricultural timing etc… ?

The answer is policy and this comes from the top. It would be wonderful to believe that opinions are formed purely on evidence, but just as politics are influenced by lobbying so are the opinions of people in key authoritative places. Many of those who believe in the humanist ‘religion’ are in positions of influence and have access to funding. It’s not some dark masonic Illuminati conspiracy, it’s how the world works.

At the moment we are all isolated astrologers struggling to make a living and until we can all work together to correct the disinformation and censorship in whatever way we can, we will be increasingly marginalised and most of our energy will be increasingly engaged in justifying our work even to close friends and clients rather than implementing what is IMO the most powerful tool for raising individual and collective consciousness.

~Robert
In case the link to Horizon on Youtube fails, every astrologer needs to see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yidb8wtszmY&NR=1 , but also to check the background information especially http://cura.free.fr/xv/14starbb.html (Starbaby) to find out how CSICOP (now CSI) operated as conspiracy is probably a polite way of describing their actions.

Faye says:

Hi Robert
Here we are again! Hi Beth great article
Hi Jan
Apart from the whole Brain Cox affair, following the very good doco’s that the BBC do is also very telling. The big bang theory, quantum world stuff, medical things are all great but are very one sided if you really look. They are the “scientifically accepted view” – ie mainstream which often has the arrogant view that ‘they’ know best. There are many other views on universal expansion and quantum science which the BBC definitely do not show in a good light – it’s subtle but it’s there. We are so used to hearing about the Big Bang and Hawkins that we hardly question it – but there are other views!
Faye

Jan Bird says:

Thanks for your reply Beth. I’m puzzled as to why the BBC would cut an astrology radio show. They have a teen page on their website, which includes horoscopes written for teenage girls. http://www.bbc.co.uk/slink/love-fun/horoscopes. It seems odd that they would cut a radio programme, but publish horoscopes, if they had such a fundamental objection to astrology.

I watch and listen to the BBC, and visit their website, on a daily basis and I don’t detect a humanist influence. What I see is an organisation which, whilst not perfect, strives to be neutral. It doesn’t always get it right, walking a tightrope is never easy, but it has to strive for neutrality under the terms of its constitution. That’s bound to upset organisations with strong views, be they secular, religious, political or astrological. It’s like sports referees – they get flak from fans and players on both sides who are understandably passionate about their team, and who, whilst they would never admit it, each want the ref to be on “their side”. But the ref can’t take sides. And nor can the BBC, if it’s doing it job properly. I’m well aware of the furore over Brian Cox’s comments but he’s one presenter, with a popular show, who has strong views and who happens to be a humanist. I genuinely can’t see that this is part of a conspiracy.

This is all a fascinating debate to be having whilst Saturn is retrograde in Libra (fairness, balance, neutrality) opposite a gaggle of planets in Aries, which cries out for freedom of personal expression! Thanks for raising it, and I know it will continue!

Jan Bird says:

As someone who was briefly attached to humanism, because I find orthodox religions don’t work for me either, this is fascinating to read. I let humanism go in the end because I found it too prescriptive and it didn’t fit my world view as an astrologer. I also found I didn’t, and couldn’t, subscribe to the “one life” point of view. I’m still on the search for a belief system in which I feel comfortable.

One thing I’d like to raise with you – you say that humanists have “influenced Wikipedia and the British Broadcasting System” but you don’t expand on that. I’m interested to know where that view comes from, because it doesn’t seem to reflect the debates that have been happening here in the UK over several years. The BBC has, in fact, been criticised by the British Humanist Association, in strong terms, for not giving it an equal voice alongside various religions. Its view is that the BBC is religion-dominated and doesn’t give a fair voice to non-religious organisations. It got as far as a debate in the UK Parliament, as the BBC is state funded, and the BHA said in a press release that “the BBC continues to give a privileged position to religion.” Here’s a link to their website statement which is pretty clear on where they stand:

http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/broadcasting/bbc

Humanists in Britain, if the BHA’s public position is anything to go by, don’t seem to think that they’re influencing the British broadcasting system. On the contrary they seem to feel excluded from it. And I have some sympathy with them on that. Whilst I don’t personally subscribe to their views on astrology, I do believe that they have a valid point to make in getting their voice heard on a equal basis to traditional religions. And that they have valid points to make on, for example, the teaching of creationism in schools. Mature adults can then make an informed choice. I think it was Voltaire who said “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Thanks for a thought-provoking piece Beth!

Beth Turnage says:

Hi Jan,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I am so glad you dropped by and provided an insider’s view. You are right. I should have expounded more on that statement “influenced Wikipedia and the British Broadcasting System”.

Wikipedia’s insistance that astrology IS a pseudoscience, a sentiment that is repeated ad nauseam by CSICOPS provides circumstantial evidence that the editors of Wikipedia that support this view are influenced by the Humanist movement. Unfortunately, these editors are protected by the anonymity of user instead of actual names. In reading the arbitration of the pseudoscience statement it is apparent there is a heavy bias toward this view, and arbitrators that disagreed with that viewpoint were pointedly ignored. In following the literature, the statement that astrology is a pseudoscience has been promoted relentlessly and it appears solely by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) which leads us back to the Humanists. Let us not forgot “The Objections to Astrology” manifesto printed by the Humanist magazine.

However, it couldn’t be more obvious that Brian Cox is a Humanist and that he was allowed free reign with his “astrology is rubbish” statement for as long as he did points to a distressing trend in the BBC. Recently, the one astrologer Mary English who had an astrology radio show on the BBC for the past two years was told suddenly and without notice that her show would no longer be broadcast. When she wrote a letter asking an explanation she was told that her show violated “editorial guidelines” and that as an astrologer could cause “harm and offense.” Clearly something has changed at the BBC and the change appears to linked to the people who believe that anything other than rationalism causes harm to human beings. The British Humanist’s complaints are disingenuous as they seem to have plenty of pull within the BBC, just, probably, not enough to satisfy them.

I also believe that people should be free to live their beliefs. I just don’t believe any group should dictate mine. In any case, Matthew Currie just invited me on his blog talk radio show to discuss this subject so please stop by and add to the discussion. Again thanks!

Beth