Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Is Astrology Political?

Until a short while ago, I had no idea that someone could possibly think that I’m part of some “leftist” conspiracy not to attack astrology. To say this post from Commissar at the Politburo Diktat came out of the blue is an understatement:

Does the Left have a segment of their base that believes a certain pseudo-science, a segment their leaders are reluctant to antagonize? Is astrology quietly acceptable within the “progressive” community? The Left takes great pleasure in bashing Republican Creationists and ID advocates (quite appropriately, and I join them in this, as my readers know)…

I don’t recall reading PZ Myers, DarkSyde, Ed Brayton, or Brent Rasmussen denouncing astrologists. Let me be clear. I seriously doubt that Markos sent out a “dummy up on the astrology-bashing” to his apparatchiks. Almost certainly the Left’s “Defenders of Science” simply haven’t perceived astrology as a threat.

It took me a while to figure out just what the hell this guy is talking about. Here’s the story, near as I can figure it: Someone named Jerome Armstrong, a person I’ve never heard of who has a blog I’ve never read, apparently said something about believing in astrology recently. I presume that Armstrong is the “advisor to a serious Democratic presidential candidate” that Commissar refers to, but perhaps that’s really someone else I’ve never heard of (since I don’t have the foggiest idea who the advisors of Democratic candidates, serious or otherwise, might be). What does any of that have to do with me? Your guess is as good as mine.

Commissar is carefuly not to actually accuse any of us of going easy on astrologers, but he does suggest, with a wink, that we haven’t bashed astrology because it was “unimportant and inconvenient to take a stand on.” Inconvenient? For me? Apparently the Commissar thinks I have some sort of connection to the Democratic party and have some interest in whether they win some election. Even more apparently, he hasn’t read my blog and is just casually lumping me in with people who actually are involved in partisan Democratic politics. I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life (though I did once do some campaign work for a Republican candidate for Congress).

For the record, I have nothing at all to do with Democratic politics or with any of the people he mentioned (other than the fact that DarkSyde has been a friend for a long time). My political disagreements with PZ Myers are fairly well known, I thought, so why someone would lump me in politically with him is beyond me. So why haven’t I bothered to take on astrology on my blog? Because I view it as a fairly irrelevant issue. Astrology is incredibly stupid, but the last I checked we didn’t have any think tanks pushing to get it into public schools, or state legislatures demanding that we “teach the controversy” about it, or major court cases over the constitutionality of teaching it in schools.

Anyone who has to even ask the question of why someone would spend their time arguing against creationism but not astrology, and think that the answer is anything other than the obvious one above, must see boogeymen beneath the bed and monsters in their closet, especially if they think that anything involving Democratic politics could possibly have a role in my thinking about anything. Astrology is monumentally idiotic. Anyone who thinks that the planets and stars have any effect on their fate has far more credulity than good sense. And the moment anyone tries to get it put into science classrooms, I’ll be happy to pay as much attention to that as I do to creationism.

But here’s what really has me laughing: in the same day, I’ve got Gary Hurd, who thinks that I’m a mole in the anti-creationist movement and a supporter of “libertarian, fundamentalist, Republican crypto-facists” bent on destroying the earth in the name of Jesus – AND – I’m simultaneously so beholden to the politics of a party I’ve never voted for that I avoid saying anything that might offend their imagined constituents, all because some guy I’ve never heard of says something good about astrology. I can hardly keep up with my real motivations with all these conspiracy theories flying around about me.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    June 26, 2006

    Monday, Monday
    Can’t trust that day.
    Monday, Monday,
    Sometimes it just turns out that way.

    On a more serious note, and to answer your question, astrogolgy is political if you are Ron Reagan, and of course astrology makes just as much sense as ID, which IS political, so there you are.

  2. #2 Hume's Ghost
    June 26, 2006

    Ed,

    Haven’t you learned by now? If you take a political stance on an issue, that automatically means someone who disagrees with you gets to label and categorize you into an opposition camp.

    You’ve criticized the President, so that makes you “the left.” And since you’re now “the left” you’re responsible for everything, everywhere, that “the left” has said.

    Myself, I just read a post where I was linked to while being identified as “the liberals” despite the content of my post being substantially no different than a post that was put up on Reason’s Hit & Run blog.

    The label doesn’t really mean anything about political views, it’s just a way of seperating “us” from “them”.

  3. #3 Commissar
    June 26, 2006

    Ed,

    I actually have read your blog and enjoy it. I confess to laziness in naming you with the others. Yours was one of the first “Defenders of Science” blogger names that struck me.

    Altho I don’t read your blog closely enough to have been aware of your political disagreements with Myers.

    I will update, with apologies.

  4. #4 Commissar
    June 26, 2006

    Really, Ed. A serious FUBAR on my part. I apologize again. My post has been updated.

    The last person I would want to piss off is another pro-science Republican.

  5. #5 Left_Wing_Fox
    June 26, 2006

    Bizzare. I have seen a number of folks thwacking Astrology with the stupid stick here, along with altie woo, thimerosol autism connections, RFK Jr. and ID/creationism. Since the other four examples I mentioned are more likely to affect people policy-wise than astrology, I really don’t see why he expects much more attention to be paid to it.

    Astrology always struck me as bipartisan loopiness; rumours of Nancy Reagan’s Astrologer comes to mind, and I know plenty of people on both sides of the political divide who tend to be credulous towards it. Why someone like Der Commissar feels this is relevent to modern political discussion is anyone’s guess.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    June 26, 2006

    I’m not mad at you Commissar. In fact, I’ve been laughing about this. And you just made me laugh even harder by now thinking I’m a Republican. I’m not that either. Honestly, there are options other than the Republicrats and some of us don’t fit into that neat little dichotomy. I’ve made it pretty clear that I will not vote for either major party, period. But this is all highly amusing to me. All in one day, I’ve been called a tool of the Democratic party, a pro-science Republican, an anti-science Republican, and a “crypto-fascist”. What can you do but laugh after a while?

  7. #7 Jeff Hebert
    June 26, 2006

    Commissar said:

    The last person I would want to piss off is another pro-science Republican.

    Now THAT is funny!

  8. #8 Matthew
    June 26, 2006

    I like how he’s pretty much admitting that creationism and astrology carry the same scientific weight. Unless he is an advocate of the teaching of astrology he can’t use the “it’s science” argument for creationism and be consistent. His only avenue left is an appeal to popularity, where locals get to decide whatever is taught on any subject regardless of its credibility.

    And god do I truly hate political dichotomies. It has caused me to become completely anti-ideology.

  9. #9 sixteenwords
    June 26, 2006

    Republicrats?

    Ho, that’s a funny! Did you think that one up yourself, or is that a groupthink talking point?

    Can the Republitarians I know use that one? Is it open source?

  10. #10 Chance
    June 26, 2006

    Whats most interesting about his response in the above comments is that he doesn’t comment on the substance of your post just that ‘gee, your not a democrat that makes my point valid. I’ll drop you from the list.’

    I don’t think astology has anything at all to do with ones political ideals. And frankly I find it unbelievably clueless that someone does.

  11. #11 Sastra
    June 26, 2006

    In India, astrology *is* a political issue. In 2001 Vedic astrology programs were introduced into Indian colleges and universities. Although the party which brought them in (in the name of Hindu Science) is no longer in power, the credibility they gained remains. Many well educated people — including scientists — endorse astrology.

    Could it happen here? Probably not on the same scale, because the appeal of astrology over there is the same as the appeal of Creationism over here. It’s part of a religious view which seeks to define a culture, and, thus, a nation. Not a lot of “America was founded as a Hindu Nation” advocates around — not that the “all religions are one religion” crowd wouldn’t be perfectly happy to promote it for the sake of multiculturalism and spiritual harmony.

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    June 26, 2006

    sixteenwords wrote:

    Ho, that’s a funny! Did you think that one up yourself, or is that a groupthink talking point?

    Neither. It’s just an amusing phrase. Is that the only thing in the post you thought interesting enough to respond to?

  13. #13 Matthew
    June 26, 2006

    Sastra,

    That’s interested. I remember hearing about that and I thought people were saying that the party who endorsed astrology were hurt by it.

  14. #14 Andrew_Wyatt
    June 26, 2006

    The only thing funnier than the idea of Ed defending astrology is the idea of PZ-fricking-Meyers defending astrology.

  15. #15 PaulC
    June 26, 2006

    I already replied on PZ’s thread, but this is the first I saw the longer quote from Commissar. In short, he’s overinterpreting the silence. Astrology is just one of a number of pseudosciences and it just hasn’t been relevant. There’s no political interest, since nobody is pushing to get it taught in school, and there’s no point to be made about biology. It does come up in more general skeptics’ writings. Carl Sagan referred to it as a pseudoscience and he was clearly liberal.

    The one politically relevant instance of astrology that I can think of was the development that Nancy Reagan had consulted an astrologer. That’s old news, and she was indeed ridiculed for it by liberals at the time.

    The silence on astrology isn’t really any more significant than the silence on phrenology or palm reading. It just hasn’t come up, and if you’d asked anyone among those with anti-creationist blogs, I think you’d find they don’t believe in astrology and are probably embarrassed to be associated with those who do.

  16. #16 plunge
    June 26, 2006

    I spent far too long thinking Commisar was sort of an intelligent dude who happened to go a little too far with a fairly silly criticism and a strained attempt at a false equivalency. But he held his ground to the point of absurdity. Now, suddenly, people are hypocrites because we don’t pay much attention to the absurdity of astrology, all because of one random Democrat thought it was neat BUT went out of his way to say that he’s no longer into it and it isn’t part of his professional work.

    Out of that thin gruel, he manages to paint astrology as some sacred cow of the right (despite it being plainly obvious that it’s a pretty non-partisan idiocy). That may not be as bad as being a creationist, but it’s sort of being a d**k, which is no more attractive.

  17. #17 plunge
    June 26, 2006

    obviously, that should read “sacred cow of the LEFT.”

    And wait, haven’t most major lefties round these parts savaged new-agey nuticisms of people like Depak Chopra plenty? What more do you want?

  18. #18 RickD
    June 27, 2006

    I’m curious – have any major politicians on “the Left” urged that schools “teach the controversy” when it comes to astrology?

  19. #19 PaulC
    June 27, 2006

    plunge: My impression of Commissar (based on a brief view of his page a few months ago) is that he’s a fairly ordinary conservative who happens to be in favor of teaching sound biology and is against creationism and ID. If that distinguishes him from other conservatives, it only shows that we’re living in weird times. I didn’t see any reason to think I would see eye to eye with him on much else.

    As for your cow, I was able to replace “right” with “left” but I’m still trying to picture how you’d paint it in thin gruel. I hope you don’t take offense, but it was kind of a mixed metaphor.

  20. #20 Chuck
    June 27, 2006

    The question is not why pro-science advocates aren’t denouncing astrology more, the answer to which is obvious – astrologists aren’t pushing their views into astronomy or physics classes as science. The question, rather, is why, for the sake of consistency, are anti-science forces pushing to introduce astrology into classrooms? If we are to teach both sides of the debate, why not both sides of the astrology/astronomy debate? Why not teach alchemy to gives students a proper “perspective” on the battle with chemists over the nature of matter? How about the controversy between Ptolemy and Copernicus? Why single out biology? Why evolution?

  21. #21 Pieter B
    June 27, 2006

    I’m certain that Chuck’s questions are rhetorical, but I can’t resist pointing out that the Answer’s in Genesis™.

  22. #22 Leni
    June 27, 2006

    The question is not why pro-science advocates aren’t denouncing astrology more, the answer to which is obvious – astrologists aren’t pushing their views into astronomy or physics classes as science.

    Exactly. I suspect that if biology teachers did as good of a job debunking stupid creationist ideas as my Ast 101 teacher did of debunking astrology, we might not be in the boat we are in now.

    Although to be fair to the astrology buffs, they seem to only care about it in a sort of passing, half-assed way. Frankly I just have a heard time seeing the psychics and aura-readers showing up at school board meeting and demanding that their ridiculous ideas be taught in science class. To their credit, I just don’t think they are all that interested in forcing it on others.

  23. #23 michael l. corbin
    July 24, 2006

    I found your blog a little late for the discussion, while looking on a blog search for astrology. A good friend of mine is a big astrology buff but she doesn’t have any interest in politics whatsoever, and she’s not trying to convert the world either. But I found that she uses astrology as an icebreaker and has a systematic way of reading charts for horoscopes. I am a member of the Republican Party, and a die hard science enthuiast. But if you want to bash some loose knit group of people I hope you enjoy yourself before you get over it.

  24. #24 Ed Brayton
    July 24, 2006

    Mr. Corbin, I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. What “loose knit group of people” did I bash?

  25. #25 Jude Cowell
    October 27, 2006

    Interesting thread. Well, you’ve got a live one here but with no interest in debating someone who knows nothing about astrology. Perhaps you should refer yourselves to Ben Franklin, George Washington, and the rest of the Sacred Geometrists who knew a lot more about the Great Cosmic Clock than you do. Not to be fussy–I just think you’ve not considered the entire picture of what is now popularly called, astrology.

    Good blog though!

  26. #26 Robert
    October 28, 2006

    Astrology is nothing more than entertainment and superstition. Can you even propose one plausible way in which the alignment of giant balls of gas undergoing nuclear fusion millions of light years away is affecting my love life?

    Anyone who is honestly relying on some kind of chart and the advice of charlatans is stupid.

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