CSI Exposes Astrology Scam


Sharon Hill has an article on the Committee for Scientific Investigation website that exposes, yet again, the fraud of astrology. She begins by citing a statement from astrologer Susan Miller: “What I do is scientific. Astrology involves careful methods learned over years and years of training and experience.” Yes, you can laugh now. Hill responds:

The foundation of horoscopes and astrological charts is a set of rules about how to decipher the locations of planets, the sun, and the moon in the sky at the time of important events. The astrologer will undertake hours of complex mathematics to derive a detailed horoscope. This framework, however, is flawed. There is no discernible influence of celestial bodies on humans. Therefore, all the complicated number crunching in the world makes no difference because the conclusion is nonsense. Garbage in: Garbage out.

Proponents have no plausible explanation for how astrology might work. Various natural mechanisms have been proposed, but physically measurable forces fail because astronomers can demonstrate that they are too small to be significant. Therefore, astrologers must resort to some unknown entity. Whenever you have to resort to “insert supernatural here,” your concept is no longer a scientifically testable hypothesis…

There is a distinct tone of “sciencey-ness” to astrology. Practitioners will call it “scientific” based on the methodological, careful and systematic use of calculations and real astronomical position data. (Never mind the various natural laws these calculations utterly disregard.) They consider “research” to mean consulting tables and the rules.

Astrology is an unworkable, failed theory. Its predictions are so imprecise that they are difficult to test. Astrologers have not provided an acceptable, natural basis of why humans should be so influenced by celestial conditions at a particular time. The astrological paradigm has failed to contribute any knowledge to the social sciences. Imagine how USEFUL such a theory could be, and yet…it isn’t at all. Except to those who benefit from the feeling of a semblance of control over their affairs.

At no time would a scientist say that a cause simply did not matter so long as he believed it to be true. This is what astrologers have done—exhibiting a clear indication that astrology stands today as a belief system; it is not scientific, it is a pseudoscience.

Indeed it is.

Comments

  1. d cwilson says

    The foundation of horoscopes and astrological charts is a set of rules about how to decipher the locations of planets, the sun, and the moon in the sky at the time of important events. The astrologer will undertake hours of complex mathematics to derive a detailed horoscope.

    And then tell people exactly what they want to hear.

  2. TGAP Dad says

    Committee for Scientific Investigation

    I think you mean “Commitee for Skeptical Inquiry,” Ed.

  3. dave says

    What I do is scientific. Astrology involves careful methods learned over years and years of training and experience.

    Watercolor painting involves careful methods learned over years and years of training and experience. This does not make Cezanne a scientist.

  4. Moggie says

    What I do is scientific. Astrology involves careful methods learned over years and years of training and experience

    She seems to think that “scientific” means “difficult” or “complicated” or “arcane”. Of course, science can be all those things, but that’s not what makes it science. A child can “do” science, after learning a few simple principles.

  5. says

    But wait — my Taurus fridge-magnet is 90% accurate about my character! It says I’m vain, opinionated, materialistic, oversexed and “exasperatingly self-righteous,” among other things. What more proof do you fundie-materialist poopyheads need?

    Seriously, though, on top of all the scienceyness and mathiness, there’s that lingering, unspoken bit of geocentrism undergirding the whole business that most followers of astrology can, apparently, be counted on to forget. I wish I could live forever, not only to explore other solar systems, but to see the astrologers tie themselves in knots trying to rejigger their “theories” to account for altered or different constellations. Hell, they might even have trouble with the Moon, where so many more stars are visible that the original constellations may not even be discernable.

    And what influence will Mars exert on people who are born on Mars?

    PS: I’m still laughing about that thirteenth sign they’ve recently proposed to shoehorn into their “system.” Englebert the Gene-Spliced College Sports Mascot or whatever the hell it was. I’ll stay a Taurus, thank you — just stick with what little you actually got right, okay? Besides, twelve is a really good number, a multiple of 2, 3 and 4, so any other woo or bulldada involving those numbers can easily be added to your “system.” Having a PRIME NUMBER of signs — especially THAT prime number — just blows everything up. How can you have Manichean duality with an odd number?

    “Careful methods learned over years and years of training and experience” my ass. How long did it take them to see a whole “new” constellation in the sky?

  6. slc1 says

    Let us not forget that eminent biochemist (not) IDiot Michael Behe stated in his Dover testimony that, if the definition of science was extended to include ID, then astrology would also qualify as science.

  7. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Methinks that Ms. Miller doesn’t understand what “science” is.

    [pedantry]
    Oh, and this statement, “Astrology is an unworkable, failed theory” portrays a misunderstanding of what a scientific theory is. Astrology has NEVER been a scientific theory. At best, a hypothesis.
    [/pedantry]

  8. kermit. says

    We should be cautious about rejecting a traditional model simply because it doesn’t make sense in Western science – sometimes they are based on empirical observations that quite real. For instance, at one time it was conceivable that the heavenly bodies were simply markers for real effects of local (Terran) processes. Problem is, in numerous studies astrologers were unable to match psychological profiles to a given list of birth dates, nor vice versa.

    Foxglove was one ingredient among many in a witch’s brew (traditional herbal medicine) for dropsy – edema often caused by congestive heart failure. In the 18th century Dr. Withering in England determined the brew did help many dropsy patients, and investigated each ingredient in the brew. Foxglove was the only one that helped. We later discovered that it contains digitalis, which slows the heart rate, which helps reduce edema. But without the scientific method, the traditional herbalists only knew from observation that the brew often worked. Empirical arts like pre-scientific medicine, martial arts, herbal lore, farming, etc. had various amounts of nonsense mixed in with real data. Science can extract the real data with good methodology – double blind studies, reducing confounding variables, etc.

    But astrologers? They got nothin’.

    Any real observations that might have existed in the past (e.g. resulting from seasonal changes in diet) have long since been obscured by changes in culture and technology and lost in time.

    Astrologers are often honest, in the sense that they believe their crap themselves. But when they tell folks any random horoscope, the customer welcomes it as accurate and insightful. This is why scientists try to prove their own models wrong. We humans are superb at self-deception. We are also very good at seeing patterns in nature, even when they aren’t there.

  9. timberwoof says

    Astrologers’ thousands of years of careful observations and correlations with earthly events failed to deduce the existence of Uranus and Neptune.

  10. wscott says

    I think you mean “Commitee for Skeptical Inquiry,” Ed.

    And here I thought he was talking about the TV show.

    Proponents have no plausible explanation for how astrology might work…. Whenever you have to resort to “insert supernatural here,” your concept is no longer a scientifically testable hypothesis…

    Well, if astrology was able to demonstrate actual results, then the fact that we don’t understand how it works would be a mystery worth investigating. It’s astrology’s complete failure to deliver meaningful, verifiable results that makes it “an unworkable, failed theory.”

    Take OPERA’s mistaken “discovery” of faster-than-light neutrinos last year – rather than dismissing the results because they didn’t understand how it could work, they published with a “we’re pretty sure we missed something but if not something really interesting is going on” caveat.

    Regardless of any scientific utility, the No Plausible Mechanism argument is IMX spectacularly counter-productive for debunking pseudoscience among non-scientists. It reinforces the misperception that “scientists dismiss anything they don’t understand.” By all means point out that every mechanism proposed for how astrology might work has failed to stand up to scrutiny. But don’t present that as a deal-killer. The main point should always be lack of evidence.

  11. davem says

    Astrologers’ thousands of years of careful observations and correlations with earthly events failed to deduce the existence of Uranus and Neptune.

    Indeed. How do they explain Uranus, Neptune and the dwarf planets? After all, if Saturn influences your luck/behaviour, then then Uranus must do the same. Yet their astrological tables don’t even mention it. Seems to me that their forecasts are, ahem, plucked from your anus…

  12. JustaTech says

    The best evidence that most people understand that astrology is bunk? Where are the horoscopes in the newspaper? Are they up in the front with the business and science news? No. They’re back with the comics, the crossword and the jumble. Even if they don’t realize it conciously, the fact that the horoscopes are next to Family Circus subtly tells people that it’s entertainment, not hard information.

  13. says

    slc1 “Let us not forget that eminent biochemist (not) IDiot Michael Behe stated in his Dover testimony that, if the definition of science was extended to include ID, then astrology would also qualify as science.”
    To be fair, he is a Pisces, and you know how they can be.

  14. eric says

    I liked Phil Plait’s takedown (now probably several years old). Basically, its a reductio in two parts:

    If mass and distance are important, astrology is using the wrong object list.
    If mass and distance aren’t important, astrology is using the wrong object list.

  15. anandine says

    I’ve probably said this here before, but there is a sense in which astrology ‘works.’ That is, if you go to a competent astrologer, you may learn true things about yourself, maybe even things you didn’t already know, maybe even if you are not disposed to believe in astrology.

    Of course it has nothing to do with the stars. They are a random mandala for the carney cold reader to do his work on you. It is a tribute to human ingenuity that cold readers can make you reveal yourself in a way that makes it seem like magic from the sky.

    So maybe instead of ridiculing them, we should recognize them as a variety of therapist and regulate them as such, as being related to psychiatry as chiropractic is to medicine, there is a narrow use for it in the hands of good practitioners, but there are far too many simple charlatans fleecing the flock.

  16. Sastra says

    @Anandine #16:

    I don’t want astrologers recognized as therapists, no matter how gifted with psychological insight an individual practitioner might be. A good therapist does not lie to their patient — nor do they actively work at screwing up people’s view of reality and encourage or even install habits of magical thinking. That would be counterproductive.

    Better you should imagine the value of a campaign to get good cold readers out of peddling bullshit and into getting thekind of education and credentials which would allow them to put their people skills to good use.

  17. caseloweraz says

    Susan Miller: “What I do is scientific. Astrology involves careful methods learned over years and years of training and experience.”

    Kind of like safecracking, or counterfeiting.

  18. Didaktylos says

    I’ve always thought that one of the best proofs of the non-scientific nature of (let’s not dignify it with ‘-ology’ status) astromancy is that its practitioners had no clue whatsoever about the existence of Uranus and Neptune.

  19. Crudely Wrott says

    This is what astrologers have done—exhibiting a clear indication that astrology stands today as a belief system; it is not scientific, it is a pseudoscience.

    But . . . but . . . wait! I mean, but . . . gee whiz . . . magic, anyone? Don’t you realize how important magic is? Gee whiz, without it, the Inquisition would never have happened! How much worse and more horrible do you think those years would have been without it? Why, we might not even be here if not for magic. Think about that!

  20. says

    Complete refutation of Astrology, #3475383. Only another 100000 to go and we might finally kill it off!

    As a future astrophysicist, I’ve always taken a special kind of umbrage with astrology.

    I’ve probably said this here before, but there is a sense in which astrology ‘works.’ That is, if you go to a competent astrologer, you may learn true things about yourself, maybe even things you didn’t already know, maybe even if you are not disposed to believe in astrology.

    Of course it has nothing to do with the stars. They are a random mandala for the carney cold reader to do his work on you. It is a tribute to human ingenuity that cold readers can make you reveal yourself in a way that makes it seem like magic from the sky.

    Indeed, a competent psychologist can do many things. And yet, if a “random mandala” is indeed required, why base it on a lie at all?

  21. dingojack says

    Yes but was that CSI based in Miami, Los Vegas, New York or LA? Enquiry minds…
    Dingo

  22. Adrian Fourie says

    Susan, you know as well as most astrologers that you have been given access to secret, protected knowledge. Don’t waste your time casting pearls before swine, you are farting against thunder :) The Age of Aquarius, which rules astrology, will open their minds in due course. Keep up the good work, you are reaching millions.

  23. dingojack says

    Adrian – and I’m sure you’re a firm believer in the ‘Tooth Fairy’ and ‘Santa Claus’ too!
    [points]BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA
    [takes a long breath. Points]
    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!!
    Dingo

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