Unity Through Astrology

Patheos has finally brought some measure of unity to the fractious web of religion and non-religious sects. Both JT in the atheist portal and Jason Mankey in the pagan portal are both put off by the new astrology section. Now they should add a haruspicy section and see if they can bring some other sects into agreement.

My problem with astrology is basicly the same as my problem with homeopathy, chiropractics and acupuncture: the proposed mechanism is all out of proportion with the described effects.

Homeopathy proposes that water molecules can “remember” certain properties by vibrating. If that’s right, whole realms of chemistry will have to be rewritten.

Most forms of acupuncture and chiropractics are based on the ideas of otherwise undetected energy flows throughout living bodies. The impact of “living energy” on the field of biology would be incredible.

Astrology, as I understand it, suggests that the planets and stars have some subtle but direct effect on human minds and events. Such an effect would require either a tremendously powerful force or one that ignores things like the inverse square law. Since we know of no force that acts this way, it must be something outside the four classic forces. This existence of such a force would require a rethink of the entirety of physics, all the way back to the equations that describe how the other forces developed in the very early universe.

When I discuss the potentially revolutionary implications of these things with practitioners, I find them almost aggressively disinterested. So people continue to use principles that could remake chemistry to help with seasonal allergies, and the forces that could change our understanding of the universe get used to predict rough mornings and romantic prospects. It’s baffling.

Editing Memories
Being Agent Scully
Atomism is Just a Theory
Forbidden Knowledge
  • Cody

    Either you or I have the wrong definition of how chiropracty works.

    My chiropractor explained it to me not like “energies flowing through the body”, but more of everything in the body is connected. A disk being slightly of center can pull on a single muscle, which pulls on another muscle, and another, and so on. This is a highly simplified example, as there are many other “situations” which exist. For example, I have horrible posture from programming far too much, so naturally my back is out of alignment. Because of this, my neck is out of alignment, with each bone progressively further and further off the higher up they are. This has caused a slight pressure near the back/bottom of my skull, due to the muscles being pulled and tightened by the improperly placed neck. Two seemingly unrelated symptoms have arose because of this,

    1. Migraines that only disappear if I lie perfectly still and straight on my bed
    2. My jaw ‘clicks’ when it opens or closes.

    The ligaments attached to my jaw and the muscles attached to the ligaments are being pulled by the poor posture, and exacerbated by my lack of sustained continued therapy (chiropracty is meant to be a regulatory check up, to realign the spine/neck from its daily hardships and strains. I usually go around twice a month for about 4 months, then start feeling better and forget to come back between anywhere from 6-12 months when the symptoms begin again.

    If I’m incorrect, please let me know.

    • Custador

      Chiropractic is confusing. On the one hand, there are chiropractors who exclusively deal with actual back problems (often legit practitioners). On the other hand, there are chiropractors who use things like the “low amplitude high velocity thrust” to “cure” cancer. And in so doing they kill people. So yeah. Chiropractic is confusing.

      • Cody

        No argument here, I’ve met some real wack-jobs during my short stint on this Earth.

        Guess I was just lucky lol.

        • Paul

          several years ago I had a part time job as dispatcher for a food delivery service up in Marietta, Georgia. This is Cobb county where they required a disclaimer put in all the biology books about evolution being “just a theory”, Our office was just a few blocks from Life Chiropractic College. For those familiar with this particular school, at the time it was run by “Dr. Sid” – at one time I could have told you his last name but everyone called him Dr. Sid. About half of my drivers were students at Life and the rest were a general collection of mental patients, alcoholics and drug users (some fitting all four categories) I understand that after Dr. Sid was tossed out that they became a more mainstream chiropractic school but under Dr. Sid he could cure any and everything by adjusting your subluxations. When I would hear a discussion of the abilities of chriropractic to heal all your ills and I would smirk or laugh they would get quite indignant. The school was very close to being a cult at that time and while I forget what happened to force the founder out and people would tell me that it was now a “real” chiropractic college I would ask for proof that they could cure anything. Invariably they would cite as proof that they had patients who had been coming their for adjustments for years. I”d giggle and tell them they had just proved my point. They would look confused and I would tell them that the fact that they kept coming in weekly for years said they weren’t curing anything. They’d throw back that medical science can’t cure diabetes, it can only treat it. I would agree and they would think they had one, but then I would talk about the number of things we can cure. and asked if they could offer proof from a controlled double blind study that they cured anything with it.

          As with believers of any dogma, it would get ugly at that point and I guess if I were spending the money it cost to go to life college and someone told me I was being trained as a snake oil salesman, especially if I didn’t have a good answer, I’d stomp off and stop talking to me as well.

    • FO

      Butterfly effect.
      If the chain of causes and effects can be so long, how can the practitioner be so sure that whatever manipulation they do will affect X and not Y?
      Or how can they see a symptom and hope to track back at the cause, in front of such a complexity?

      It is interesting that Custy concedes some legitimacy to the practice, but at the very least, I think they should do a better job of flagging the quacks, job that they do not seem interested in the slightest.

      • Noelle

        It is more likely that a good chiropractor’s skills have nothing to do with either mechanism described above, but rather work on a different principle altogether. I’ve linked some good medical studies done on chiropractic treatment for pain previously on here, though I don’t have the time to do it this morning. What’s interesting, in the US, the osteopathic branch of medicine is nationally accepted as equal to allopathic. And they perform their own brand of manipulative techniques. They do not offer a chiropractic mumbo jumbo description on how it works though. So I’m seeing some sound science and results in the hands of skilled practitioners. It is disappointing the chiropractic’s medical understanding and studies haven’t held to the same scrutiny of description.

        Homeopathy for allergies is interesting. I’m guessing it may work on the same principles of allergy shots. Granted, even that isn’t as fully understood as we’d like, but then neither is why statins decrease the risk of heart disease. I’d like to see them pursue a real line of scientific reasoning on that as well. Science has already done a good job in mapping out the particulars of the immune system and where allergic reactions fit in. You found something that works? Great! Now give up your water vibrating nonsense and dig into the real science with the rest of us.

        • FO

          I find the lack of curiosity of the proponents of alternative medicine appalling.

          • Kodie

            I wrote about this a while ago on the forums – real medicine can be fear-inducing, which makes alternative/herbal remedies seem appealing by comparison. When I see ads for medicine, they always say it can kill you. My father can’t take anything for pain because he’s on heart medicine. Fix one thing, break another. I’m not saying homeopathy is the answer by any stretch, but side effects of real medicine can make the cure not as wonderful. I guess people do want to live in a world where their illnesses are just cured and that’s the pipe dream. I can totally understand why people don’t trust doctors or “big pharma”. The US healthcare system probably contributes to the quest for alternatives. It costs too much to get well the conventional scientific way, and since it just makes you sicker to cure the one thing that’s wrong with you, you need a handful of pills every morning just to offset the side effects to a manageable level, not a perfect one.

            Again, I’m not defending alternative medicines, but maybe it’s this myth that medicine perfectly zeroes in on the damage, leaving everything else alone. If it goes in through your blood, it goes everywhere inside your body, and it might make you fat, it might make you impotent, it might put stress on your kidneys or your pancreas or you can’t drive or whatever, and then you need to take medicine for that and get regular blood tests. Do you see how that doesn’t “cure” and it costs a lot more money to do it that way? People want miracle cures all the time – that’s the myth, and that’s why people are paranoid and seeking out alternatives to the conventional approach. It’s not entirely that they are gullible. There are pressures on them to become dissatisfied.

            • FO

              You are right Kodie, I think I get your point very well.
              When I go to the GP I feel like I’m in a butchery, so yes, I can emphasize.
              Being from Europe, I never heard of someone not getting cured because of money and it still feels odd to me.

          • kessy_athena

            I find the lack of curiosity of people who automatically dismiss anything labeled as unscientific equally appalling. I think the best approach to something new is neither, “true until proven false,” nor “false until proven true,” but simply, “I don’t know yet.”

            • Sunny Day

              Russell’s Teapot.
              When something is so outlandish on its face, there’s no need to grant it equal weighting when compared to more plausible thoughts.

            • Noelle

              Agreed, he or she who refuses to consider a finding based solely upon its source is equally as suspect as those who cling to an idea that has been thoroughly disproven.

            • kessy_athena

              What is or is not outlandish is highly subjective, and often not at all a good guide to what’s true. What’s more outlandish then the idea that electrons can behave both as particles and waves? If you find an idea outlandish, that’s a good reason for you to not pursue it any further. It’s not a good reason to dismiss and attack anyone who does pursue it.

            • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

              While I agree what’s outlandish is subjective and not the best guide for things that can be summarily dismissed, there’s a pretty big difference in theorising that electrons work as both particles and waves and theorising that a giant invisible tea pot orbits the Earth.

              Generally the problem is that when people accept something themselves, they find it difficult to accept other people’s scepticism, and when people are sceptical of something, they think it pretty absurd to not be so. People are pretty subjective.

            • FO

              Kessy, I have limited time to waste on every crackpot theory I witness.
              There is an infinite number of theories out there.
              Proving which one has merit is a burden of its proponents.

            • FO

              Also, Kessy, the fact that electrons behave as both particles and waves is insanely outlandish **BUT** unlike ANY of those alternative theories, has been proven so beyond the point that we have applications of that, and you are using it right now to communicate with us.

              In short: the greater the statement the greater the proof required.

              What the proponents of these alternative theories fail to see is the magnitude of their statements and the vacuity of the proofs they bring.

            • kessy_athena

              Like I said, FO, if you find an idea outlandish, that’s a good reason for you to not pursue it any further. It’s not a good reason to dismiss and attack anyone who does pursue it. The mountain of evidence for quantum mechanics didn’t just fall into our laps; it took a lot of time and effort to get to this point. All I’m saying is that you should reserve judgement on such things, not jump to the conclusion that it’s all woo. And I’d ask you not to put obstacles in the way of those who’d like to do serious investigations. Helping to cement a giggle factor to an entire subject does not serve the cause of trying to better understand our world.

            • FO

              These people are making money out of stuff that was not proven.
              These people are not interested in seeing how things REALLY are, they just want to prove their idea right.
              I attack them because they ignore completely the full consequences of their ideas and are not interested in exploring them, this is being intellectually coward.
              I attack them because these theories are ambiguously defined so that they are not really falsifiable.
              I attack them because they slander and pollute good science to protect themselves.

              But you know what? Good ideas will eventually resist whatever attack I do.
              Intellectually dishonest ideas, I hope not.
              (And don’t pull out the card of the funding, they get shitloads of money).

        • Yoav

          Osteopathic schools are recognized not because there is any evidence that their version of alignment work but rather because they teach the full regular medical curriculum and then throw in a couple of magic classes. From what I read the majority of osteopaths, especially the younger ones, do their residency in normal hospitals and go on to practice allopathic medicine.

        • blotonthelandscape

          I was given homeopathic pills for dust and pollen allergies as a kid, and I’ve had very little hayfever in my teen/adult life. I used to get the most awful sinus headaches every winter, and I guess the homeopathic doctor associated them with allergies. I have no idea if the placebo effect got me, or if I just “grew out” of my allergies, or if it was something else altogether that was more to do with the environment I grew up in, but there was a definite change.

          • Noelle

            I’m not convinced it is totally a placebo effect.


            There are more studies that are pretty easy to find on pubmed. I think they accidentally stumbled onto something that works. Or they found something that works awhile ago that science decided to take a closer look at.

            • blotonthelandscape

              I don’t have the time to look at more right now, but from the 2 you linked, one was fishing the data (sure *overall* there was no effect, but on these few days/this sub-period the effects were clinically significant!). It also seems odd that they were comparing it to a placebo rather than antihistamine/anti-inflammatory usage, but I can only see the abstract, and maybe they had their reasons for that.

              The other was sublingual immunotherapy, and there was no indication of homeopathic preparation/dosage in the abstract, so I’m not sure what the relevance is (except to say that using the allergen to treat the allergy may be effective). I was given little sugar pills, so not sure the second one is relevant to my experience.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      You, and your chiropractor are incorrect.

      First off, chiropractic does not work. It does not reliably show effectiveness in properly controlled clinical trials. But let’s overlook this for now.

      Chiropractic allegedly works by discovering and treating vertebral subluxations. This of course is horseshit, so some chiropractors use other techniques, and other explanations. But if your chiropractor is using something other than chiropractic to treat his patients, that’s really not much of an ad for chiropractic, is it?

      • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

        You’re applying a particular interpretation of chiropracty to the entire field, and you’re doing it without any sources.

        • FO

          “Interpretation”.. I though we used this word only for religion.
          There shouldn’t be much interpretation in science…

          • kessy_athena

            I’ve found it to be unhelpful to try telling people what they believe.

            • FO


          • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

            Of course science involves interpretation. People interpret data in all sorts of ways. Data *has* to be interpreted to be of any use. We are not machines, we do have biases, preferences, blind spots and sometimes a perfectly rational mind can come to a different conclusion than another perfectly rational mind. Observing and then interpreting is how science functions – you’re just supposed to try to interpret through as clear a lens as possible.

            Anyway my point was that there are many chiropractors out there who don’t believe in “vertebral subluxations” or other mystical energy phenomena. They manipulate the skeleton to release trapped nerves, improve muscle function, and so on, based on the physical laws of biology and physics. It is a gross generalisation to suggest the entire field is simply druids playing with woo, whether or not their means are effective.

            • FO

              Theories (upon which disciplines are based) and data are two different things.

            • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

              Seriously? That’s not even really an answer, it’s a non-sequitur. Theories are born out of interpretations of data. Einstein didn’t collect a bunch of data and write down E=mc^2 as two separate, disconnected events.

              This is the kind of stuff theists talk about when they claim atheism and science are just other religions – some people create their own mythological version of science that cannot be faulted, and contort reality to get away from its shortcomings, which primarily involve the fact that people are lazy, sloppy, blind, biased, stupid, greedy, political animals who have to use their imperfect brains to make sense of raw data and figure out what it might actually mean. Admitting science has weaknesses doesn’t make science wrong or make somebody anti-science, and being willing to accept that different people can interpret the same data differently shows a maturity that’s kind of required for proper scientific debate. If science weren’t largely about interpretation, the term scientific debate wouldn’t exist. It’s true creationism vs evolution isn’t a real scientific debate because one is a completely made up rationalisation trying to shoe-horn real evidence into a theological framework, but the jury’s still out on chiropracty and whatever the field may actually be, it is not uniformly about people messing around with mystical energy, so claiming that is at best a straw man argument that derails real scientific inquiry.

              In short, idolising science and pretending it’s something that it is not only serves to discredit it.

  • trj

    the forces that could change our understanding of the universe get used to predict rough mornings and romantic prospects. It’s baffling.

    Until astrologists begin to produce consistent and reliable results there’s no reason to look for any underlying natural forces. There are no results in need of explaining.

  • Len
  • L.Long

    Want to really impress the world? And get scientist to really pay attention? Win $1000000!?!?!
    Under controlled conditions, have a Homeopath inject himself with malaria, wait until the symptoms are manifested, then have them mix and take their magic water and when the malaria disappears he gets their attention, has $1000000, and when the experiment is replicated, he gets the Nobel Prize and a large part of Africa stops dieing young.
    When this occurs I will stop using the word QUACK.
    As trj said …till they consistently can ….there is no need to look at it.

  • vasaroti

    The comments in the astrology blogs should be interesting. Miscalculations, precession of the equinoxes, all that. What always confused me about horoscope followers is that in order to believe that a particular planet has any effect on humans, you have to believe that there is an actual god Mars or Venus that imparts certain qualities to a spinning rock. And why would Aries have picked Mars? Sure, it’s red, but Mercury or Venus is way hotter and nastier. Is Neptune pissed that his planet wasn’t discovered until the 19th century?

  • kessy_athena

    Evidence trumps theory, always. It’s both logically and scientifically invalid to dismiss or ignore a phenomenon simply because you don’t have a theoretical model that you find palatable. After all, unless you think that you have a complete and perfect understanding if how the universe works there’s always the possibility of a mechanism at work you simply don’t know about.

    Just because a practice began using a theoretical model that turns out to be completely wrong doesn’t mean it has no validity. I think there aren’t many people who will dispute that the original theory behind chiropracty is pretty much complete woo. And yet a lot of people report large benefits from the modern practice. (Excluding the quacks and con artists, of course.) By the same token, modern chemistry is the direct descendant of medieval alchemy. The change in name was motivated purely by politics.

    And I’m afraid you’ve got some of your science wrong, Vorjack. neither the strong nor weak forces are in any way shape or form classical forces – they are both creatures of quantum mechanics. As such, they do some profoundly weird things. The weak force can actually change some of the properties of the particles involved, such as their color charge. The strong force doesn’t follow an inverse square law; actually it doesn’t fall off with distance at all. Which is why you never see isolated quarks – trying to separate quarks produces such absurd amounts of potential energy that it actually becomes energetically favorable for the quarks to rip virtual particles out of the quantum foam to neutralize their color charge.

    Remember, the universe isn’t just stranger then we imagine, it’s stranger then we can imagine. The definitive test is always experimental results, not how good the theory is.

    • FO

      My cousin told me that he died once.
      Aka “not all evidence is the same” or “people derive any sort of benefits by any sort of idiotic practices”.
      Or “we need fucking double blind trials”.

      • kessy_athena

        Very true, FO. As they say, keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.

        I don’t know anything about your cousin, but I would point out that with modern medicine and resuscitation techniques, that’s not such an outlandish claim. ;)

        • FO

          Hahah! =)

    • Kodie

      If I stub my toe, sometimes it makes my headache go away and sometimes it doesn’t.

      • Custador

        Gate Theory. Same reason hot/cold compresses relieve pain.

        • Kodie

          Doesn’t always work, and then I have two pains.

          • Sunny Day

            The god of stubbed toes is just as capricious as the god of parking spots.

            • Kodie

              The problem with the god of parking spots isn’t that it’s awesome when I get a spot close to my building and frustrating when I have to give up and park a half mile away, it’s that he doesn’t shove some of the parked cars a little closer together to make more spots, and he placed all the hydrants just far enough away from the ramps and driveways that it’s illegal to park between them, or even farther away so you can’t park either spot, not right next to them. I have to hope there’s a good reason, like cars not ending up on the sidewalk and smashing into all the hydrants too easily, that sounds rational, but it makes it look like plenty of parking available when there’s none. When I see a spot that’s about 4 inches too small for my car, I feel smited.

            • Paul

              I found the perfect cure for the uneven results of relying on the god of parking spots – I moved to the suburbs (actually grew up in them)

            • kessy_athena

              Or you could just be sensible and take the bus instead. :P

            • Kodie

              The bus gods are so much smitier.

    • trj

      Minor correction: it’s the strong, not weak, nuclear force that changes color charge. Specifically, gluons change the color charge of quarks and other gluons (those are the only two particles that have color charge).

      Anyway, having an open mind is nice and all, but like I said, until homeopathy, astrology, or whatever actually produce results that cannot be easily dismissed as placebo effect, confirmation bias and such, I see no reason to expend much effort at researching any underlying mechanisms. The claimed effects can’t be shown to exist, so what is there to find out?

    • blotonthelandscape

      Theories contextualise the evidence, and a good theory is one which fits all of the available evidence. Theories can also help us to know where to look for evidence. Evidence without a theory is meaningless data, and the art of science is as much about measurement and observation as it is about building a coherent picture of reality. The two aspects are interdependent, and neither is more important.

      “unless you think that you have a complete and perfect understanding if how the universe works there’s always the possibility of a mechanism at work you simply don’t know about”

      This sounds like the prelude to a “… of the Gaps” argument. ” You don’t know everything so you can’t dismiss my theories.” I’m sure I don’t need to explain why this is faulty reasoning.

      Re. Chiropractic, the evidence shows that, whatever the subjective self-reporting appears to suggest, the actual effect is no better than other, less dangerous (and normally cheaper), physical therapy techniques (I forget the reference to the systematic review which concluded that, but it comes up whenever the effectiveness of chiro).

      I have an anecdote re. Acupuncture and Chiro, a friend of a friend who studied chiro took the available courses on acupuncture for the in-depth study of the nervous system. Apparently it was more thorough than what they taught in standard medicine on this topic. Her Chiro course was less quacky than the average (it was in many ways the equivalent of a Medical Degree). Of course she was also very blase about the use and abuse of the placebo effect in practice, which to me is a big no-no.

      • kessy_athena

        I meant it as an argument against a general attitude that anything that doesn’t conform to current theory must be wrong and not worth looking at, not as an argument for any particular theory. I honestly don’t know enough about chiro, acupuncture, or homeopathy to comment on any of them. An “of the gaps” argument is indeed invalid. It’s also invalid to conclude from that any idea that deals with those gaps is also invalid. It’s a bit of a double edged sword – you can’t use the gaps to support an argument, nor can you use them to dismiss an argument a priori.

        As for astrology, my take on it is that it most likely that it functions somewhat like a Rorschach test. It provides a large amount of more or less random data that your subconscious then picks patterns out of. If I’m right, then that would make the theory complete woo but the technique could have some merit as a way to query your subconscious.

        • FO

          Most scientists, when they meet something that does not conform, go all “Whooooo! That’s at least *a dozen* of papers!”

          Different is if you have some that does not conform, but have little or no evidence to prove it.

          Science is NOT about validating theories.
          Science is about hammering down ALL theories in literally the harshest way imaginable.
          Those theories that have survived, did so AGAINST the best minds that humanity has to offer.
          These alt theories are getting the same treatment as everybody else.

          • kessy_athena

            I agree, but I’d like to remind you that the practice often falls short of the ideal. There are many many topics that have not really been rigorously investigated, for a wide variety of reasons. Science is a work in progress, so it’s fine to file things as incomplete.

            • FO

              Given the money and the popularity, you’d say that the physical principles of homeopathy should deserve a bit more attention…
              Most quacks are RICH.

        • blotonthelandscape

          Fair enough. I guess I reserve the right to dismiss “gappy” arguments when the only support offered for them is “there’s a gap to fill and this fills it”, but given other evidence I’d be happy to accept the theory.

          I’d dispute the “more-or-less-random”ness of astrological readings. Certain planets are given certain meanings, and whilst their position is uncorrelated with events in our lives, that isn’t the same as random. If Venus is in Capricorn, then Jesus is getting lucky tonight (or whatever). Not only that, but any nuance or license or interpretive spin taken on the part of the astrologer is unlikely to be random at all. Human beings are notoriously incapable of behaving randomly, and they are most likely lead by their own subconcious and conscious understandings of astrology to give particular sorts of meanings to particular events.

          • FO

            Just like religion, astrology diverges.
            The theories cannot be proven against facts lest they crumble, so they divide and multiply at the whim of their proponents.
            Eventually, it becomes very difficult to decide what astrology says, because there are hundreds of different ideas.

            • trj

              Just so. And ironically all the conflicting variations of astrology all draw their conclusions from the exact same sky.

              It reminds me of a certain book.

  • stuart

    Also in regards to acupuncture, though some of it is complete bogus, its use in treatment for muscular recovery is well documented. My Physio uses it on me when i have a strained muscle or to help release lactic acid build up during recovery. Though the same results can be done with deep tissue massage and guided stretching acupuncture is faster and allows other recovery methods to be used.
    as for chiropractors I’ve never come across one that didnt do things my physio could, except she did more as she took care of my whole body, instead of just my back.

    • FO

      The only time I tried acupuncture I could not sleep for two days because of the memory of the needles grinding against my bones.

  • http://scotteriology.wordpress.com Scott Bailey

    While the comments seem to have taken a bit of a detour towards the legitimacy of chiropractic practices, for me, the money quote in the above piece is “the proposed mechanism is all out of proportion with the described effects.” So we could first ask what the proposed mechanism for homeopathy and astrology (which Vorjack does) and see if any of the “desired effects” can be reached by such a mechanism. Obviously, these would not probably work out very well under any sort of rigorous scrutiny.

    I’m not sure the sort of studies that have been done on some of the claims of chiropractors, but you would want to take in placebo effect and have a double blind study. Would be interesting. My hypothesis is that some claims such as being able to ‘cure’ childhood ailments such as colic would be a “desired effect” of chiropractors that might not bear out to well under rigorous scrutiny.

    I’m not entirely sure but does Kessy’s first argument sort of look like a universe-of-the gaps argument like the old god-of-the-gaps argument? There may be a force at work that we are unaware of, or don’t presently completely understand, so there may be something to woo? Like I said I’m not entirely sure… however, I would suggest that we must still try to account for natural phenomenon using the tools and data that we have. Otherwise we end up with Deepak Chopra-like ridiculous arguments about what “may be possible” and using ad hoc quantum physics words to make it seem legit.

    As Tim Minchin would put it:
    Throughout history
    Every mystery
    Ever solved has turned out to be
    Not Magic.

  • Kodie

    Whaddaya callit, ::facepalm::? I can sort of understand Christians or Catholics believing astrology to be some sort of portal to hell, because they’re afraid of everything other than Jesus that might have power over someone, but the pagans? “No, that’s just too far, it’s ridiculous;” “yeah, that stuff in the newspaper isn’t real, but you should have your chart done, that’s real.” Other than that, and I’m just making a guess here, but is there any consideration that astrology is the most common belief in the US? If it upset Christians so much, it wouldn’t have set itself in concrete in many forms of media, and when did that even happen? Daily horoscopes not only show up in every rag printed, but a lot of magazines about fashion, love life, even decorating. Everyone knows what sign they are, and I’ve met a lot of people who take it seriously enough, even if they also have another religion, but also if they don’t belong to a more established religion, it’s their default. It’s not just within a New Age/Pagan niche that people take it seriously, but if Christianity is the most popular religion, there has to be a lot of overlap here, or you’d hear more about how much bullshit it is. Many Christians do not adhere to such a belief that astrology is occultish, but equally valid and harmless as Jesus*.

    *For people who are progressive, liberal Christians who don’t spend a lot of energy trying to convert people or hate, the same way they can dabble in Buddhism/Yoga/4-leaf-clovers/psychics/ritual meditation/Chopra, etc., without displacing their worship of THE god and Jesus.

    • Noelle

      I know a lot of superstitious Christians. It shouldn’t be too surprising. Worshipping the heavens seems to be amongst the earliest of human religious practices. Christianity owes much of it’s current beliefs and practices to a combination of older religions throughout time.

      If the moon is in its seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, it should have no bearing in whether I meet a mysterious stranger today who reminds me of something once forgotten. But neither does the existence of any supernatural being with ego issues. The older earth and sky beliefs are not so different than the relatively newer Western religions.

      • Kodie

        You know what else I was thinking is how otherwise rational people (who in all likelihood believe in some deity and most probably take it for granted that Jesus died for their sins without giving it too much other attention) are liable to fall into thinking that stars and planets are within the realm of science, as are stuff like chakras. I’ve seen BS about psychics and chakra alignment on more than one otherwise “medical” show; people watch those shows expecting medical information and it gets mixed up for them by medical doctors on TV. It’s all in the format of a entertaining program with some idea that the information must be correct because doctors don’t dismiss it. Sometimes, they do approach alternative medicine with skepticism and sometimes they give it a pass for being somewhat harmless (and therefore, not harmful).

        Viewers are unable to, because they’re not the experts, discern what is medical or in the case of astrology, what is scientific. The body works mysteriously, with blood and chakras being equally valid; since we study the stars, any kind of meaning we feel we get from them must be part of the same package. Where people can sort of tell the difference between a possible effect and an impossible effect, per se, agree the universe is 14 billion years old; evolution is true; dismiss obvious “creation” stories and other fables from things that could actually happen and probably did happen, they also know they’re not the least bit knowledgeable about science and are unable to discern a scientific truth from a pseudo-scientific claim. I become extra-skeptical because I do fall into this category. Everyone is trying to sell so much fucking yogurt. They’re selling everything. Why don’t men need yogurt if it’s so good for you?

      • Brian K

        I hear hippy-dippy 1960s psychadelic music as I read this comment! :)

        • Noelle

          My mother was a hippie. Makes me half-hippie, I guess.

    • kessy_athena

      depends on the particular pagan and the particular brand of astrology. The pagan community has its own internal politics like any other. “Serious” pagans tend to look down on the more “mass produced” aspects of it, if that makes any sense to you guys.

      • Kodie

        So “No True Scotsman”. People getting bullshit out of a newspaper column aren’t invested in the true vibrations of the rising signs and therefore can’t be taken seriously. Lol.

  • Zotz sez: Healthy vaginas make Baby Jayzus cry!

    Um, “athiest” in a post by an atheist on an atheist blog?

    It must truly be the end times! ;-)

  • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

    I’m put off by the astrology channel too. I mean, I get that Patheos provides space for all sorts of different viewpoints and this will necessarily include some viewpoints I think are bullshit, but the astrology channel looks to me like they’re just taking the piss.

    Patheos’ religious bloggers talk about their faith. They come at it from a perspective of “this is what I believe”, even if the’re sometimes hazy on the distinction between their beliefs and reality. But the astrology channel might as well be the horoscope section of any newspaper, and that’s pretty much what it is. Why not throw in some adverts for homeopaths while we’re at it?

  • Mark Temporis

    I want them to sponsor a site devoted to anthropomancy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropomancy

    • Paul

      I’m sorry, I just can’t support anything that sacrifices young women/girls, virgin or not. I think the burning of old wizened women as witches, which helps clean up the general appearance of a town is much better than sacrificing women just to read their entrails. Besides, can’t we ust use a cat scan or and mri and leave the person intact?

      • Len

        Cat scan? You can scan cats?

        • Noelle

          Cats scan you.

        • UrsaMinor
          • trj

            Actually, I think it’s the other way round:

            • UrsaMinor

              I think we should defer to Noelle’s medical expertise and let her tell us which one of us is correct, although on the face of it, her original statement appears to support my position.

            • Noelle

              If we’re speaking of human medicine, it is of course the cat that scans you. I am not a doctor of veterinary medicine, so I cannot vouch for imaging tests done in felines.

              Oh sure, a cat scanning you may not find anything. And there’s always the issue of the patient allergic to cats, but then many are also allergic to the IV dye used in a more traditional CT scan. Overall, a cat scanning you is more cost effective, results in less radiation exposure, and is more adorable.

            • Kodie

              As someone who is not a doctor, I can confidently suggest that PET scans scan cats.

            • Mogg

              Surely a PET scan is for dogs as well? Or is that only lab tests?

            • UrsaMinor

              Unfortunately, PET scans can’t be used to diagnose and treat injured wildlife.

  • Paul

    I love the assortment of ads I get while reading this blog on patheos. One touts a service for helping you find the right christian college. Another one does feature the work shop tool sharpener but I already have one of those, but it might be useful to others.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “So people continue to use principles that could remake chemistry to help with seasonal allergies, and the forces that could change our understanding of the universe get used to predict rough mornings and romantic prospects. It’s baffling.”

    I don’t find it the slightest bit baffling. Really, this is just another manifestation of human nature. Specifically, it’s because objective reality is often harsh; lots of folks react simply by manufacturing their own subjective realities. That way they don’t have to deal with objective reality any more. Problem solved! (For them anyway.)