Wednesday, February 18, 2004

"The most persistent hallucination that ever haunted the human brain"
Being a child of the Enlightenment, I have long been affronted by the prevalence of astrology in modern society, a condition that is aggravated by my girlfriend's oft-stated, but unelaborated, view that there is "something in it."

For this reason, I was pleased to stumble across an article in the M&G giving three good reasons (many more could be stated) for not believing in astrology. The first is that it is premised upon an astronomically false view of the universe. Given the "procession of the equinoxes", the constellations are not in the same position as they were when the zodiac was established 2500 years ago. This means that the first point of Aries is now really in Pisces, and so on. Secondly, events such as the Holocaust pose an obvious problem. Did everyone who died at the hands of the Nazis share a similar horoscope? This seems unlikely. And, finally, what of free will? What is the interaction between the stars and the choices I make?

Unfortunately, having posed these problems, the article (which reviews a book) reverts to the general wooliness that bedevils astrologers and their craft, by ignoring the first two problems, and making a virtually meaningless statement about the stars "inclining" but not "compelling" our life choices in response to the third. In addition, the reviewer hauls up an obscure event from the middle ages as "proof" that astrology somehow works (if it did, it should be easy to find better evidence than that).

I was going to conclude this post by making some gloomy remarks about South Africa lapsing into a tabloid culture, where ideas such as UFO's and astrology are taken seriously by the mainstream media -- until I noticed that this article was sourced from the British newspaper The Guardian! Oh well, if nothing else this confirms Franz Cumont's view that astrology is "the most persistent hallucination that ever haunted the human brain" (or that The Guardian itself has tabloid tendencies, an issue about which I won't pontificate here...)


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