What is the best way of tackling astrology?

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Last week I was invited on BBC Radio 5 to debate astrology. I have done lots and lots of these types of shows in my time, and they usually dissolve into a ‘there is no scientific evidence’ vs ‘but my clients tell me I am accurate’ debate. This time I thought it might be interesting to make the scientific case in a somewhat more forceful way. So, when the astrologer said that they were aware of compelling scientific evidence for their art, I decided to press the issue. In the end, I asked the ‘Which studies do you find convincing?’ question six times. I was a bit disappointed that the host made us move on, but do find the whole thing quite fuuny….

The clip has had a mixed reaction. Some people think that I came across as rude, and that open minded listeners would have sided with the astrologer. Others have said that I seemed firm but fair, and that it helped make the skeptical position more convincing. What do you think? Does this type of approach help or hinder the public understanding of science?

71 comments on “What is the best way of tackling astrology?

  1. Katy says:

    very jeremy paxman xxx

  2. jbrydle says:

    Oh wow! I thought you did great. She had nothing, very clear she was full of nonsense.

  3. Milton says:

    Which studies did she find convincing? :)

  4. Tracy King says:

    Radio 5 listeners are all racist so will prefer your stance anyway.

    *winds neck in*

  5. Pam says:

    brilliant- that’s the way we should all be doing it- for too long these people have got away with it through others being ‘polite’ – good enough time as any toi stop the superstitious claptrap what with the main supersitious bunch losing ground- the catholics that is

  6. Kim_01 says:

    Agree with you entirely..she didn’t have a clue!!

  7. The best way to track astrology of course, is by the stars.

    As for the video, at work at the moment so it’ll be another 8+ hours before I can watch it. :(

  8. panka says:

    Well I think you did as good as you could in the short space of time…maybe if there was more time for the debate, a softer tone -examining the claims astrologers make step by step and disproving them- would work better in terms of winning open minded people over. But maybe not with her, she was really agressive and ignorant. The kind of person I would be tempted to strangle in an interview i think ;-)

  9. EmilyT says:

    I thought it was fair – she didn’t answer the question in a credible manner at all. If she had, there would have been a much bettter case for her views.

  10. Carlos says:

    The problem with this kind of person is that they really have no appreciation for what ‘scientific evidence’ actually means. And neither do the listeners that side with her. So no amount of this kind of discussion is going to change their mind.

    While I think Richard’s point was well made, I do think it can be a bit unfair to expose people by forcing them to come up with specific examples on the spot. This can be a very difficult thing to do if you’re not 100% prepared, even if you’re right. Admittedly, the example that Richard asked for is something so basic that anyone who claims authority on that subject should have known, but it wouldn’t be clear to an uninformed audience that this is the case.

    Consider what would have happened if she had bluffed and named a completely fictional study, but with authority and conviction. Richard would have had no choice but to say something like “Well, I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that particular study”, and then he would have looked like the ignorant one who had just been trumped by ‘science’.

  11. Conspirama says:

    What is the best way of tackling astrology? « Richard Wiseman's Blog…

    Last week I was invited on BBC Radio 5 to debate astrology. I have done lots and lots of these types of shows in my time, and they usually dissolve into a ‘there is no scientific evidence’ vs ‘but my clients tell me I am accurate’ ……

  12. The astrologer interrupts more loudly and far more obnoxiously than Richard does, so if people think that makes Richard sound rude they ought to think she sounded doubly so.

    Her insistence that she knows what “science” means seems particularly arrogant (in someone who claims to be a scientist, what’s more(!)), and therefore rude, because it shows an unwillingness to listen and be corrected. Other people must have tried to explain science to her in the past, and she didn’t listen then, either.

    The astrologer seems to think that “studies show” is good enough, and that a study is conclusive if you say, loudly enough, that it’s conclusive. Richard is trying to make the point that you need to look at the details of specific studies to know if they should be trusted. Richard is obviously right.

    An important question is who is right about the reason why the show was produced in the first place. Was it supposed to be a debate, as Richard says? If so, Richard was clearly right to treat it as one. The astrologer seems to think that the show was intended as a presentation of take-it-or-leave-it opinions: as she says, “I have come on the air to tell you what my philosophy is”, nothing more.

  13. Venom says:

    Loved it. Great job!

  14. Vern says:

    That’s top notch interview technique. She made a wishy washy claim and expected to score points with it. So by keeping her on the hook for it and demanding she back it up you showed her for what she was. A fraud. Kudos for not letting her wriggle out from under the question. She tried and tried.

    I can understand how some people would find sympathy for her. Likely people who can’t stomach such bold confrontation and who don’t have a grasp on the great wads of cash that are bilked out of the credulous public every day. I’m not sure what you said in the rest of the interview but if you prefaced it by claiming that if she’s wrong it’s a betrayal of people’s confidence not to mention fraud then it justifies your stance to the greater public. At least I hope it would.

    It’s a shame the host cut it short. It makes me wonder if they try to keep things balanced so that when things go bad for one side those rooting for that side don’t turn the radio off.

  15. mjr256 says:

    Awesome. Thought you did a great job of pressing the point as much as you could before the host forced you to move on. If someone says they have studies that support them, it’s perfectly fair to challenge them by asking them to elaborate on those studies they claim are so convincing.

  16. This particular means of persuasion worked extremely well as it highlighted a real gap in the astrologer’s knowledge. It was an effective argumentative point but was risky. What if the astrologer had quoted from the Journal of Vedic Astrology, what would be the counter argument? It is important when using rhetorical devices to be more prepared than the person you are arguing with – a good politician’s approach. Other than that, well done!

    C.

  17. Avertedd says:

    Честно говоря, сначала до конца не понял, но со второго раза дошло – спасибо!

  18. Didn’t sound rude to me, that’s what I would have been shouting at the radio if I’d been listening. (they can hear you btw, even if it’s a pre-recorded programme. I’ve seen scientific studies)

    Unfortunately things like astrology are believed on a personal emotional level. Making appeals to science is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. All you need is a bit of selection bias on the part of the subject to allow them to convince themselves that it works and they’ll always be a believer. Studies done by other people are never going to be as persuasive as personal experience.

  19. John Goodwin says:

    I thought you did just fine. She clearly did not know of any studies otherwise she would not have been so defensive.

  20. Lafayette says:

    If this was being aimed at some glossy mag horoscope editor I’d have said it was maybe a little harsh, but this astrologer is of the “certain advice” breed. They make outlandish claims about their own abilities, and the claim that what they do is science cannot go unchecked. So you did good.

  21. Lafayette says:

    Oh, and I have heard similar things crop up with interviews with Scientologists, who also claim that what they do is science when it plainly isn’t. They will discuss the remarkable success rates of Criminon or Narconon or whatever, but are unable to provide any scientific evidence. My favourite was one that said “in my car I have lots of information on this, and I will get it for you after the show” which preceded a scarper at the hurry up.

  22. Dr Bob says:

    I found the interview at first amusing and then frustrating,
    I was more frustrated with the lack of following what I consider to be reasonable rules for debate, but then again we see similar patterns of question dodging in other areas.
    I found myself wondering whether the astrologer was expecting the same kind of debate as she found herself in. It’s not unknown for interviewees to be brought to a studio on the pretext of one subject and then sprung with questions from another area. While I agree that it’s reasonable to expect her to have been able to at least recall some part of the evidence (or faith) base she built her beliefs on, I wondered how i would cope if I was not a confident performer in a studio and faced with unexpected questions.
    I think the science/pseudo-science debate is an important one but that, too often at the moment, it devolves into attacking the person rather than the argument. I’m also quite wary of science slipping into scientism. While I agree that there are large swathes the real world that science offers brilliant models and a fine process for explaining and predicting, there are limitations and assumptions to the scientific method that I rarely hear scientist-advocates take time to recognise and debate.
    I welcome your tentative steps in experimenting with a different (you say ‘more forceful’) approach, but I’d urge you to remain carefully respectful of people coming from a different background. I heard the astrologer say that she was a Vedic astrologer. If I had been in your shoes and known about this distinction, Richard, I’d have done more research on vedic astrology to take the discussion more into the astrologers domain. A quick wiki search reveals a modern systematised version which is (I think) controversial even within the Vedic astrology community. The other is much older, and comes from a time when astrology and astronomy were not recognised as separate ways of viewing the world. By poo pooing Vedic astrology as a whole there is a risk that we do a disservice to part of the non-Western scientific cultural heritage. I do think that that is worthy of note and praise while at the same time explaining that science has built on, refined and discarded some of those early ideas. I think that that argument is likely to be more compelling than devolving into a straight ‘astrology’ is rubbish because it doesn’t stand up to scientific testing. I thought you had the balance pretty well spot on and was just disappointed that the host wasn’t able to control the flow of the discussion better. There’s more to say about this whole area of science/pseudoscience it’s ian important debate but one which too often (elsewhere) devolves into unscientific ranting on both sides.

  23. cam says:

    A bit heated on both sides.lol.

    You were right to press her.

  24. uksceptic says:

    I thought you were spot on and that she clearly came across as someone that didn’t know what she was talking about. Although it was very unfair of you to expect her to have evidence for something that there clearly is no evidence for. ;-)

    Picking up on what a few people have said, the notion that she considers herself a ‘scientist’ is intriguing. I would have liked you to press her on what her understanding of the scientific method was and then go on to ask examples of when this has been used to test her particular brand of philosophy. I would have taken her up on the notion that these studies of hers were done in India. If the results are accurate then they should be able to be replicated anywhere on the planet, under proper conditions of course. If the only studies she knew of were from one particular location or one particular institution then this should immediately throw up warning signs.

    It saddens me slightly that the astrology side are winning this battle hands down. We all know what our star sign is, there is an astrologer linked to every major newspaper who has a daily column and all of us Brits here can remember portly Russell Grant gracing our TV screens with his nonsensical rubbish every morning. Having said that I am yet to meet anyone that, given an informed short discussion on the subject, will not come round to the sceptical way of looking at astrology.

  25. texturbation says:

    But did you threaten to overrule him?

  26. adamjtp says:

    The problem with appealing to science in the way that you did is you’re preaching to the choir.

    I listened to the “debate” live and found the format very frustrating (at least now I understand what Radio 4’s “down the line” is parodying) and any sort of attempt to construct a logical chain of arguments was doomed from the start.

    I didn’t think your aggressive stance worked. In the past I’ve always found your style affable and persuasive. A style which is less Richard Dawkins and more Louis Theroux, looking on the bizarre with childlike eyes – and not being afraid to ask why the Emporer has no clothes.

    Personally, I think the examples and stories from your book Quirkology (e.g. Petiot etc.) are more likely to persude than putting someone on the spot demanding data.

    I suspect there would then be an appeal to “but MY astrology is different” – in which case you could ask her to come up with her own tests and ask why she wouldn’t take the JREF MDC. I believe just talking about the JREF MDC would be an eye opener for many people (who believe that science is all about test tubes and LHCs) – I also believe that this would be especially powerful given your recent involvement in the Putt test.

    Many people find stories are more persuasive than data – that’s probably the attraction of astrology. If you want to “convert” those that believe in astrology perhaps you should use the power of stories, astrology debunking stories, against them. A sort of stupidity ju-jitsu?

    Probably mention that data doesn’t back it up – but I don’t think it needs to be pushed quite as hard.

    • uksceptic says:

      Whilst I agree that the million dollar challenge is important and making more of the public aware of it can only be a good thing I am not sure that this is relevant in this case. Astrology comes under a belief system rather than the particular talent of an individual.

      As far as I am aware I don’t think astrologers think they are ‘channelling’ the stars or anything but rather reading the positions of them and drawing inferences from them. Although the idea that the position of celestial bodies has a direct effect on our personalities and lives is pseudoscientific the ‘skill’ of one reading the positions and drawing inferences from this isn’t anymore supernatural than understanding the symbolism of tarot cards or a peace sign.

      Unfortunately I didn’t hear the whole debate live, but I agree that it would have been great for Richard to have the opportunity to give examples from Quirkology and others and what repercussions this has to astrology.

    • uksceptic says:

      Whilst I agree that the million dollar challenge is important and making more of the public aware of it can only be a good thing I am not sure that this is relevant in this case. Astrology comes under a belief system rather than the particular talent of an individual.

      As far as I am aware I don’t think astrologers think they are ‘channelling’ the stars or anything but rather reading the positions of them and drawing inferences from them. Although the idea that the position of celestial bodies has a direct effect on our personalities and lives is pseudoscientific the ‘skill’ of one reading the positions and drawing inferences from this isn’t anymore supernatural than understanding the symbolism of tarot cards or a peace sign.

      Unfortunately I didn’t hear the whole debate live, but I agree that it would have been great for Richard to have the opportunity to give examples from Quirkology and others and what repercussions this has to astrology.

    • uksceptic says:

      Whilst I agree that the million dollar challenge is important and making more of the public aware of it can only be a good thing I am not sure that this is relevant in this case. Astrology comes under a belief system rather than the particular talent of an individual.

      As far as I am aware I don’t think astrologers think they are ‘channelling’ the stars or anything but rather reading the positions of them and drawing inferences from them. Although the idea that the position of celestial bodies has a direct effect on our personalities and lives is pseudoscientific the ‘skill’ of one reading the positions and drawing inferences from this isn’t anymore supernatural than understanding the symbolism of tarot cards or a peace sign.

      Unfortunately I didn’t hear the whole debate live, but I agree that it would have been great for Richard to have the opportunity to give examples from Quirkology and others and what repercussions this has to astrology.

    • AdamJTP says:

      Astrology is acceptable for the MDC.

      From: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge/challenge-faq.html

      “Past claims have included: psychic or mediumistic powers, ESP, dowsing, magnetic humans, astrology, faith healing, etc.”

      They’ll challenge all sorts of nutters (and kudos to them for it!)

    • uksceptic says:

      Fair enough I was clearly wrong. Do you know of any examples of where they have challenged an astrologer I would be interested to see the method.

      Sorry for triple post earlier please delete!

    • AdamJTP says:

      Very few people ever take the challenge – most seem to drop out. Perhaps they realize that it’s professional suicide to take the challenge.

      There have been a couple of astrology negotiations:

      http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=58629

      http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=41120

      But these are by no means the most bizarre – for a full list check out:

      http://forums.randi.org/forumdisplay.php?f=43

      “Paranormal urination”?!

    • uksceptic says:

      Yes I watched the paranormal urination video. Hilarious.

      “Perhaps they realize that it’s professional suicide to take the challenge.”

      Perhaps?!

    • AdamJTP says:

      Ha – excuse the ambiguity. The “perhaps” was meant to qualify “realize” not “professional suicide”! I have NO idea what these people “real-ize”?

  27. KatM says:

    Firm but fair Richard. Have noticed that in general in these types of debates, the rationalists tend to stay calm and on the point whereas the believer of whatever sperstitious belief is being discussed tends to become heated and emotional. What does this say about the people who hold the two different points of view? The rationalist knows his/her viewpoint is based upon solid evidence. The ‘believer’ subconciously knows their belief is not based upon anything substantial? Just a thought :)

  28. KatM says:

    Have degree in astronomy and few things wind me up more than ignorant people who get astronomy and astrology confused. Aarrrrghhhh.

  29. Sally says:

    Richard, by pursuing the question, set the stage for what could have been an interesting and potentially revealing conversation (I was curious to hear what kind of science the astrologer was referring to.) – but unfortunately the host did not use this opportunity. To just move on without addressing the issue – that was some avoidance on the host’s part.

  30. Lil says:

    You were not rude at all!

  31. Alex Pryce says:

    the problem is, if skeptics aren’t forceful and they’re reserved we come across as not being able to defend our point of view and the believer appears to “win”. But if we take a stronger position we come across as arrogant.

    As its very much a damned if we do, damned if we don’t scenario. I say go for the jugular. Though not all the time. this time it was justified. She is a practitioner of Astrology, they are making claims and should be challenged as forcefully as necessary. The average believer, deluded as they are then maybe kid gloves a little more.

    But this situation- totally justified. Next time, make her cry :)

  32. Katie H says:

    I’ve just cried from laughter :’)
    Great job calling her on it! & you weren’t too hard on her at all. If she’s going to make a point she should have the evidence to back it up. Considering it’s astrology though you can see why she had to lie.
    If only you could have pressed the point more – I think there would have been one exploded astrologer!

  33. Wilka says:

    I think the problem with this kind of is that to give a good answer, and explain why something isn’t scientific, takes a lot of work and the average person will most likely get bored and stop listing to you.

    The best explanation I’ve seen by far is this one: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/09/excluding-the-s.html

  34. I thought you did just fine! Staying politely on the point makes her look like an idiot, even to those who would never actually look at the research. All the public can do is attempt to judge the credibility of a speaker/expert, and I thought (at least in that clip) you made your point very well–that she was talking out of her butt and making stuff up.

    Keep up the great work!

    John

  35. einalem says:

    Everyone on this blog is, of course, anti-astrology-minded. It would be interesting to post the clip on an astrologer’s blog and see what the reaction is…

  36. Gareth H says:

    The astrologer was right. Richard presumably hasn’t looked into the scientific studies that have taken place in India, and as we all know, India works under different physical laws than the rest of the universe.

    Yes. I’m being sarcastic, before anyone starts…. ;o)

  37. KatM says:

    @AdamJTP Thanks for making me laugh!

  38. Jacqueline says:

    Oh Dear…

  39. JustScience says:

    How best to tackle ‘Astrology’?
    In a way that is mindful of the audience.
    An audience that includes young scientists, students and non-scientists who might too easily compare the single minded claims to hold the keys to truth with other groups who make similar claims. Richard seems to have a pleasant approach to debate but there are others who seem to gleefully vilify the opposition, lighting a touchpaper that could have horrible results. This is not a matter of not presenting an argument strongly but of remaining sensitive to the other point of view rather than closing down on it. On this discussion I see great concern about the amount of money spent by individuals on astrology. I’m pretty sure that more is spent on novels, fiction. Should novelists stop writing because they write fiction …? I suspect, but I have no intention of arranging a statistically meaningful study to prove, that many who consult astrologers doubt the validity but enter in to a relationship with the subject more or less playfully. Rationality is not the only way of approaching truth (fiction can reveal and demonstrate truth. for example). Scientists have a lot to be proud of, it seems we have understood much about how the universe works. I really think that we need a little more humility than some (I’m not talking about Richard here) show when they involve themselves in public debate. The big arguments are not always ( and I would hope ‘seldom’) won by ‘going for the jugular’.

  40. Anonymous says:

    I DISAGREE:
    Hmmm…in the 1st place i think is totally arrogant to juge the scientist so literally….let’s not forget that is completely out of her field….
    is like saying …damn maddona is a complete looser cuz she is terrible at politics….
    ….scientist are all about EXPERIMENTATION….that is their valuable contribution to the world …..
    all i’m saying is that if we don’t try to see both sides of the problem we don’t have any right to criticize…..

  41. Sage says:

    Personally, I didn’t find you to be rude although I wondered if you were getting frustrated.
    However, if you were rude what difference does it make? It does not change that she never answered the question and offered no evidence.

  42. will says:

    I thought you approached it fairly, and she asked a completely irrelevant question asking if you knew any Indian astrologers, what has her question got to do with your question about studies, she was just changing the subject.

  43. Michael Gray says:

    What’s the best way to tackle Astrology?

    I don’t know, but I have had enormous success by initially agreeing whole-heartedly with the protagonist, and gradually extending and amplifying their absurdity, obtaining explicit or tacit agreement in holding their hand as we descend down the slippery slope, to the point where you have them spouting patently extravagant idiocy*, that is quit clearly apparent to even the dimmest of their imbecilic fawning acolytes.

    1) It throws them off guard, and derails their pre-scripted responses.
    2) It reveals one as possessing a sense of whimsy and co-operative fun.
    3) You convince the fence-sitters.

    (There is no** need to pay me for the copyright on this concept! ;)

    ————————–
    * More than usual, that is.
    ** “no need” as in the flexibility of a Pat Putt Putt course, of course.

  44. AdamJTP says:

    Given a few different approaches in the comments – I guess the real question now is how to construct an experiment to compare the approaches (also checking if success of each approach is determined by the personality of the person doing the tackling).

    • Dr Bob says:

      Re: AdamJTP 27_May-2009 09:58

      I would have thought that a good first step would be to agree how ‘success’ would be measured in this context. Would sucess be if we got to the end of the interview with both protagonists feeling that they had been fairly heard? Would it be success if over 50% of the audience felt that the issue was worth reviewing and personally decided to look into the matter more seriously? iWould it be a success if all astrologers in the world recanted? Would it be a success to sway public opinion sufficiently to outlaw astrology? How about all astrologers carrying a ‘Government Health Warning’? Or maybe we could agree to burn all the astrology books (I’m assuming we’d draw the line some way away from burning at the stake.)

      For those that want to hear, science has (I believe) discredited astrology comprehensively. Some may still dabble with astrology as a recreation or an aid to reflection and contemplation, suspending disbelief. I’d be interested in hearing whether Richard feels there is any place for astrology or other forms of ‘divination’ as a tool for reflection/introspection. (If he’s written about this in his books … I’ll see it soon, my Wiseman delivery from Amazon has just arrived).

      Each time I write one of these posts, when I reread it it sounds more supportive of the irrational than I’d intended. I think astrology is pretty well baseless but I am increasingly concerned at the polarisation in the science/pseudoscience debate and the intemperate language used in the debate at large. I really welcome Richard’s gentler approach. In the long run I think/hope people will find it more persuasive and less divisive.

      I know that I find the science advocacy I hear elsewhere often sounds shrill to my ear. When I’m teaching (my current main career) I find myself feeling I should apologise for the personalised attacks I seem to hear more and more in the debate, while wanting to encouraged students strongly to engage with the discussion.

      DrBob

    • AdamJTP says:

      Personally I think the purpose of a debate is get people to examine their own views on a subject and/or get a better understanding of opposing views.

      But this isn’t my blog – so I don’t get to set the question.

      Richard’s question was:
      “Does this type of approach help or hinder the public understanding of science?”

      I’m pretty sure that burning books and outlawing stuff doesn’t directly demonstrate a better public understanding of science.
      Whilst I agree that tools for relection/introspection are useful – again that wasn’t the question.
      Similarly, the feelings of protagonists seem to be irrelevent to Richard’s question.

      But your overall point (defining success criteria) is still valid – how would one measure “public understanding of science”?

      Psychology isn’t physics and measurement tends to be more oblique and statistical in nature.

      So how should measure the “public understanding of science” and changes in it? I don’t know.

      (Wow, I wrote a lot of words to conclude with “dunno”).

  45. CB says:

    I listened to the whole interview the other night.

    I thought that you missed a trick by focusing on her claim of scientific evidence. She made another claim, which you should really have capitalized upon.

    Her main point (the one that was masked by the scientific evidence argument) was that science didn’t tackle the unfairness of life. She repeated “so why are we all born into different lives?”, and was allowed to put forward, and infer unchallenged that:

    1. The unfairness of life is an important issue that science should be answering.
    2. That astrology and reincarnation has the answer, because it’s okay if you are born poor today, if you live your life in accordance with astrology, in the next life you’ll be able to be a prince, so it all works out in the end.

    I got what you were trying to say, and of course, you were right in the points that you put forward. Unfortunately, I got the impression that because you concentrated on her scientific evidence claim, and didn’t query her on “why is life is unfair”, she was allowed to “win” that definition, throughout the interview. There was a vacuum, where you should have offered alternatives to it.

    • Dr Bob says:

      I think ‘unfairness’ is a red herring.

      As soon as we get into the realms of fairness I feel that we are dealing with ideas of right, wrong, justice, morals and values – ethics perhaps. While scientists need to address ethical questions as part of their work (perhaps limiting which areas of science we study or embargo or which methods are acceptable) the ethical answers are subject to the moral climate and may change without changing the science itself. (At least, that’s how I see it at the moment).

      I’d like to suggest (but I’m not sure about this) that as scientists say how things are, how things could be and how things will [probably] be. When we drift into saying how things SHOULD be I think we’ve taken our scientist hat off and put on another one: politician, moralist, priest, householder. That’s not to say that people who are scientists shouldn’t enter the moral debate, just that when they are moralising they are not wearing the ‘mantle of the scientist’. I think this is healthy, recognising that there are times to use the scientific approach and others when it’s not the right tool for the job.

  46. Hi,

    I’ve just stumbled upon this conversation. If you are looking for evidence for then let me direct you to a proof of sorts, not of traditional astrology, but of a form of constraint to human development made by the movements of the sun through the year. In brief, the book presents new forms of personality type as proof of the argument that humans evolved a system of personality type in order to make parenting more productive. I analyze evolutionary biological arguments rather than astrological ones and conclude that we are typed by where our birth falls in the year.

    Essential Personalities, and why humans found love, adapted to monogamy and became better parents.

    You can read a bit more about it here

    http://astore.amazon.co.uk/wwwz2korg-21/detail/0954483146

    The reason why the standard ‘scientific studies’ don’t show the astrological effect is that 1) trad. astrology has got hold of the wrong influence and 2) the human personality is rather different to how they imagine it.

    Andrew Kennedy

  47. Richard King says:

    I was not wildly impressed with either side in the interview. Anything other than a dialogue with at least a degree of understanding and mutual respect for alternative views and ways seems rather pointless.

    What is the best way of tackling astrology? That depends what is meant by tackling. If it is understanding and investigating, including “scientifically”, then discuss it with people who understand the subject. Similarly, any astrologers who wish to engage with science should discuss the matter with people who understand science.

    The problem is that there are, obviously(?), huge differences in levels of understanding and capability on both sides. That does not just apply to astrology but many subjects on the borders of, or outside, what is considered to be “mainstream”. Unfortunately, those in the mainstream tend to lump those of us with “a foot in both worlds” in a category much the same as people with little or no scientific knowledge, often in the juvenile “quack”, “woo”, “yah boo sucks” way, which, frequently, correlates with their low level of understanding of science, or at least science as it used to be.

    There is not a large body of scientific evidence for astrology, or even a reasonable amount, as far as I am aware. On the other hand there has been some, such as that mentioned by a Professor at a Scientific and Medical Network, “Mystics and Scientists Conference”. As I recall (any notes I made at that conference are not readily to hand), he was aware of studies that showed a strong correlation between the position of Jupiter and the rate of growth of cherry blossom, or something similar, plus links between the position of the moon and developments, occurrences, on Earth. However, the main point of what he related was that any academic in his country researching such matters met with such opprobrium that they would put their careers at risk if they did so. There is at least an element of dissuading people from investigating certain matters, then claiming there is lack of evidence to support claims, though the corollary is that there is no proof of anything against them, usually conveniently forgotten by supporters of the “mainstream”.

    Science is not, in reality, the process of free inquiry that it is meant to be; nor does it seem to be what it was when I began learning about science – well before the dumbing down period of the last couple of decades, or more. Science also seems to be in the process of being redefined, being labeled “pseudoscience” if applied to subjects that are deemed not acceptable, rather than its origins of being subject independent. To my mind, along with any others, it is such scientists who are “pseudo”, or at least limited, poor, scientists.

    Ideally, any inquiry should involve people who have at least a little understanding of both science and that which is to be investigated. Also, it should involve scientists who are not stepping outside the subject the have mastered, or at least not too far outside. Although seemingly obvious, that is something which appears to be often set aside these days. Not that being within a specialisation always works, at least when it is, to a large extent, notionally so. For example, a professor of a particular broad subject who makes quite basic experimental errors that he would not make if he truly understood what he was doing and cannot even define the subject he is investigating, certainly not anything like the subjects practitioners define what they do. However, since he also involved himself with a physicist who seems to think he can make his way through subjects well outside his learning and experience, yet is also lax at providing references and poor at definitions, that is hardly surprising.

    On the basis of my knowledge and experience, there is less to astrology than some proponents claim and more than mainstream science claims; though the general tenet of it fits with some rather high level science. The same goes for many other non-mainstream science matters. However, I have a dual advantage of a standpoints of being of a profession, engineering, that is vastly older than science, managed without science and of which science is still only a small part, plus having a degree of what Barbara Brennan, et al, tend to refer to as “higher sense perception”; none of the latter clashes, or contradicts any of the science I have learned in the last half century, at least no more than quantum physics, or relativity, clash with classical and Newtonian mechanics. A very great deal depends on the level of knowledge, understanding and science that can be brought to bear, as well as how they can be related to the subject to be studied; much that I have seen and read about has been poor to atrocious.

  48. Kung Fu says:

    I would probably have taken a different tack after she didn’t come up with the goods. It would have been an opportunity to say “Well, it’s important to know the examples. This means the listeners, and myself, can read and evaluate these claims, as currently I am unaware of them, but I do know of studies x, y and z which show astrology does not to work.”

    Here’s my own humble take on astrology:

    • anibal morbo says:

      la cercania de VENUS tambien afecta la mente humana (la cercania de VENUS) asi como luna PROBADO POR USTED y marte PROBADO POR MI

  49. rtb1960 says:

    Debate Astrology? Well, Lets see JFK was killed using Astrology-
    Oswald horoscope had his natal Mars at 11 degrees Aquarius- the moon
    was 11 degrees Aquarius.
    It doesn’t mean that Astrology is a science. But when you can predict the movements of all the Presidents and actions of all the terrorists’.
    Two space shuttle disasters’ – ‘9-11′- and Find out that ‘D’-Day’ was
    ‘Treason’! etc.. I’m not going to ignore it anymore!
    Especially, since the threat of WWIII maybe near..
    Scientific studies in Seattle have suggested that people get depressed during the ‘Thanksgiving, Christmas season due to the lack
    of ‘Light’. Spring and Summer they’re happier..
    Research in the N.Y. Public Library.
    Though, that doesn’t prove ‘Light’ works in Astrology.. But everyone
    does Astrology- by starting with the ‘Sun’ and going ‘2x’ the distance
    from the Sun to the Moon in degrees.
    If you do the horoscope for ‘Pearl Harbor’ and progress it to ‘d-day’-
    it looks like FDR chose June 6th, 1944 based on the events of Dec. 07th, 1941.
    General Chiang- the Chinese Christian Warrior- a product of Tokyo
    Military Academy, at the possible request of a vacationing ‘Nazi’ in
    china, was arrested for not wanting to fight the Japanese on Dec 12, 1936
    then said; Ok, we’ll fight the Japanese- then released Christmas
    creating a ‘United Front’ in China against the Japanese.
    On July 07th, 1937 at 10:07 pm near Beijing- Japan declared war
    against China. They citied that; ‘United incident’. Progress the chart
    to 9-11. A Japanese-American designed the World Trade Center.
    Two planes ‘American’ and a ‘United’ hit the Trade center.
    We then ended up in ‘Afghanistan’ because of that ‘American-United
    incident’.
    Treason started when the two bombs dropped on Japan- Hiroshima
    and Nagasaki had 1. Mars 9 degrees Gemini, second bomb had Mars,
    11 degrees Gemini- thus 9-11.
    The world Trade Center was 35 years old- 35 light years is 11 parsecs
    ( 1 parsec is 3.26 light years). The WTC looked like an 11.
    Zeta 1, and Zeti 2 reticuli are 11 parsecs away- ‘Aliens’ attack us!

    Terrorists’ like ones and elevens. So the obvious question is if an
    event occurs 2001, what happens 2011?
    Theres 72 years to a degree in an age. 2160 years to an age.
    The final degree of the Piscean Age started in 1938.
    Using a 24 hr clock- 1 age (2160 years) as 1 day, theres’ about 36 seconds to a year. Hitler invaded Poland at about 11 minutes after 11.
    11:11
    Question, if Germany was an enemy? Why were they asked into
    “NATO” and Japan not?
    China, Russia with problems with communism, I can understand-
    but Germany after slaughtering Jewish people?
    According to ‘Wikipedia’ The ‘Rune’ stone originally found in 1783 in North Dakota- was moved to ‘Solen, Minnesota’ says, 8 and 22 – The age of ‘Pisces’ ends Aquaruis starts. August 22 is on the Cusp
    of Leo-Virgo (opposite Signs) 1362. I used 14:00 hrs. in Minnesota
    So does the new age start on Aug 22, 2010?
    Iran when they attacked the U.S. embassy in Tehran, attacked
    on the Full Moon. Sun 11 Scorpio- Moon 11 Taurus. Nov 4th, 1979.
    The Ascendant line was 1 degree Capricorn- 1 degree Cancer.
    The Iranian Leader wants to visit ‘Ground Zero’. Is he preparing for
    a different Ground Zero- like when the Piscean Age hits Zero?
    Well, thats all for now.. I’m still not finished researching this subject
    especially since everything seemed come in threes..
    They used astrology start the ‘Civil War’, Spanish Flu, 11 months after
    the declaration of War (against Germany), March 04th, 1918- 07:45 AM
    Kansas, at Sick Call- I went to a Military Academy. Sick Call was after breakfast between so I put 7:45 AM- It looks like they used the chart to mail ‘Anthrax’.
    To most people, this won’t make much sense. But ‘Astrologers’
    might figure the out.
    Lately, I’ve working on the ‘SF Zodiac’, his 13 letter cipher
    seems to say; “Zodiac A. Baldze”. I think he was saying, he was going Bald. Anyway.
    Sorry to Psych you all out..

  50. Ross says:

    The best way to back up your argument is with evidence. She didnt have any. Case closed.

  51. Quackers says:

    It was quite entertaining.

    One way you know someone is full of bollocks is when they are unable to directly answer a question, and when asked repetitively the answer changes, as if the person is making up a story.

    A good debater demands an honest answer, even if it is “don’t know”. So good on you Richard. You were assertive.

    She basically lost the science debate, anyhow, when she referred to astrology as her philosophy. For example if I were to say there is scientific evidence for working memory and couldn’t remember Baddeley and Hitch or the dual task paradigm, I would never claim that working memory is my philosophy. That is like shooting myself in the foot. (but if I were to be talking about WM, I obviously would know about Baddeley and Hitch, anyway)

  52. K says:

    So he only believes in things that can be proven by a scientific study? How many things are there in our daily lives that we just know are true but that no one has bothered committing money and time to “proving” are true? Very narrow minded if you ask me…

  53. Everybody is throwing the words ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’ around as if they were the same thing. A worrying trend, it seems to me. The man or woman in the street has got hold of easily used skepticism and now uses it endlessly without really knowing what they are doing.

    Proof has many grades and ‘colours’ to it. Evidence also comes in qualities. Judgements are made about evidence using other knowledge to hand, and proofs are accepted with an agreed level of contradiction often built in. Astrology is grasping at something. The fact that the theory of astrology is not reliable does not mean that it is completely useless. It is also the case that science does not really understand what astrology is trying to do and its testing of the theory doesn’t really get at the processes astrology is looking at.

  54. James Whitehead says:

    Your approach was fair, reasonable and justified.

    More interviewers should take this stance: unsupported (and perhaps unsupportable) claims should be met with calm requests for evidence in their favour. Only once this becomes normal will society’s attitude to science shift from a general acceptance of all “authorities” as equal to a more mature, evidence-based approach in which members of the public feel a duty to consider the foundations on which different opinions are based before accepting or rejecting them.

    Any interviewer with the style you adopted wins my respect.

  55. Hester says:

    I just want to know…did you pinch her after the show? :-P

  56. Howie Firth says:

    Heaven help us if this is what communication of science has become. I’ve worked in the field for much of my life, creating the science festival format that is followed worldwide, and finding many ways to build links with science and society, and now today I see a growing backlash against science, most disturbingly in climate change. And at this time, when we need more than ever to build links and win trust, to show the power of scientific method in enabling us to chart a path ahead through difficult waters, here is someone speaking on behalf of science and presenting it at the level of a row in a school playground row. Science is not a shouting-match about rival bodies of dogma, but a calm and systematic approach to establishing objective knowledge. It is not about squabbling on chat shows like a student home from the first term. The groups that will really appreciate this kind of cringe-making material are the ones who are trying to oppose science head on. They just have to play a clip like this to make the case to their audience that scientists are alien and unreasonable. If your working life involves doing ‘lots and lots of these types of shows’, and if you are being portrayed as a spokesman of science, could you not try to have a little professional self-discipline, a little more respect for your audience, and come across as a little bit more mature?

  57. lWKhzC says:

    helpful hints effects of valium in early pregnancy – valium side effects coming off

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