On the way to work this morning, I listened to a discussion concerning astrology on CBC Radio’s The Current. The first interviewee was Frank Florian from Science Director at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton. He discussed how the astrological zodiac must be inaccurate as they do not account for the changes due to the 26,000 year precession of the Earth’s rotational axis. I wasn’t really listening to him, as I just didn’t care about astrology and already knew about precession.
But I really became upset when the second interviewee came on. She was Sue Thompson of the Canadian Association for Astrological Education in Toronto. She has been learning about astrology for about 30 years and is earning her diploma in astrology education from the aforementioned Association.
I can understand that Sue was nervous – you could hear it in her voice. I know that feeling – I was on CBC television during the 1997 federal debate. I was nervous as hell too.
But what she said was simply incorrect.
Sue started by saying that astrology was a science.
Science discredited astrology 600 years ago, with the dawning of the scientific method.
She said that “Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus [were astrologers].” Well, Sir Isaac Newton also believed in alchemy, so perhaps it’s possible he was wrong about astrology too. It has been proven that Einstein did not approve of astrology – a famous quote was actually made up by Canadian Astrologer Werner Hirsig in 1951 (and the quote was removed from later editions of his book). Copernicus only studied astrology because it was a required course in the 14th century medicine and never practiced it. Galileo and Kepler were, like Newton, leading thinkers of their time, but they lived within a society that was only slowly emerging from the Dark Ages of dragons, witches, ignorance and superstition.
Sue said that the positions of the planets could be used to determine medical information or financial information. Again, complete nonsense. The moon cannot predict if I will get cancer. Mars cannot tell if I will pay less taxes in 2021.
I have a few other thoughts on this subject:
1. Astrology has been used for thousands of years. Sure. That is not a valid argument for the continuing belief. Other beliefs from thousands of years ago include Zeus, dragons, the Earth-centric (geocentrism) universe, and the four humors. Just like astrology, there is no scientific basis to these ancient beliefs and they have been swept away. No one believes them anymore. So this is hardly a good reason to continue to believe in astrology. You should no more put your faith in astrology than you should in the fountain of youth.
2. Astrology is the description of how the planets influence humans here on Earth. This is based on the location of various celestial objects. Let’s examine this more closely. For all of recorded history, there were only five known planets (excluding the Earth), as they were the only ones visible to the human eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. During that time, astrologers would have created their astrology charts based on that knowledge. But what happened when Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered in 1781, 1846 and 1930 respectively? Wouldn’t that invalidate all the previous thousands of years of astrological writings? What about the recent demotion of Pluto to a dwarf planet, and the discovery of many other dwarf planets? Wouldn’t that cause all the astrological horoscopes to be rewritten again, and invalidate all the changes that were made since 1930?
3. Actually Sue said that astrologers can “determine how [the planets] affected all living things on earth: animal, plants, humans.” Really? So sunflowers, algae, platypus and penguins can have horoscopes? How do you determine the time of birth for a amoeba?
4. Sue said “the moon is important for determining one’s personality, as are all the other planets.” How does this ‘influence’ work? So, based on the location of planets and other celestial bodies at the time of your birth, astrologers are supposed to be able to tell your basic drives or impulses and are tied to the human psyche. Supposedly, they can tell your personality and predict the future. What is the method of this influence that the distant planets have on a personality? It can’t be gravity – the gravity of Saturn is certainly not enough to influence the neural pathways in the brain of any individual. It can’t be light or electrons – otherwise it wouldn’t work if you were born in a cave underground. It can’t be neutrinos, which could penetrate a cave, but do not originate from planets (only stars). The strong nuclear force only operates on distances of 10^-15 metres (atomic scale). The weak nuclear force only operates on distances of 10^-18 metres – 1000 times smaller than the strong force. Those are the four known forces and many of their particles. There are no other ways of transferring energy or information.
The fact is that there simply is no way for celestial bodies to influence the human psyche or predict the future.
I was disappointed that the CBC interviewer did not ask these more pointed questions about Sue’s claims.