Pharyngula

The power of astrology

Be astounded: there was actually one astrologer who, in 2000, published a book of advice that specifically said, “Avoid terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.” She didn’t fake it, there wasn’t any post-event modification of a prediction going on, she actually did it. Can you guess how?

Under the category of “Avoid: Terrorist Attacks” she listed more than 130 dates in 2001.

For September, she listed 16 dates for avoiding terrorist attacks.

This little discovery does omit one peculiar thing, though. If an astrologer tells me to “avoid terrorist attacks,” how do I do so? Are there days when I should not avoid terrorist attacks?

Comments

  1. #2 Jim Harrison
    July 3, 2006

    Astrology can’t make useful predictions, but the Bible is sometimes right. Bush’s victory in 2000 was predicted in Ecclesiastes 9/11(!), where we read “I looked and saw that under the sun, the race is not to the swift.”

  2. #3 Kristine
    July 3, 2006

    If I had no scruples, I could make such money! It’s depressing to see what hokum sells. A woman at a party I went to yesterday started talking about “sun-gazing.” “Yes, that’s the typical response,” she said when I went, “Aaah!” Turns out she gazes at the sun with her eyes closed. If you do it long enough, and are barefoot, you won’t need to eat anymore. Really.

  3. #4 J-Dog
    July 3, 2006

    And don’t forget the bible talks about the “burning bush”, accurately predicting how many Americans feel about Dubbya’s presidency…

  4. #5 No One Of Consequence
    July 3, 2006

    When cult leader / swindler Pat Robertson said that god spoke to him, and god says that a tsunami will hit the U.S, I made the following predictions…

    God didn’t speak to me, but here are some tighter predictions than Pat’s (mine have locations and time frames):

    1. A hurricane will hit the east coast of the US in the next 6 months between the Florida Keys and Virginia.
    2. A tornado will hit a trailer park in the midwest within the next year.
    3. A black car will be damaged by hail by the end of 2006.
    4. Someone will die today.
    5. Someone unrelated to them will die tomorrow.
    6. There will be a news report within the next 72 hours about violence in Iraq.

    Let’s see Pat top those.

    I didn’t use astrology either.

  5. #6 Craig Pennington
    July 3, 2006

    Turns out she gazes at the sun with her eyes closed. If you do it long enough, and are barefoot, you won’t need to eat anymore. Really.

    Wow. You me a real life breatharian? And you went “Aaah!” without the traditional “hahahahaha!” followup. I admire your self-control.

  6. #7 Ithika
    July 3, 2006

    Wow. You me a real life breatharian? And you went “Aaah!” without the traditional “hahahahaha!” followup. I admire your self-control.

    Oh jeez Craig, that was painful. The sun has a huge mouth with which it absorbs energy, ay-eeee! There just ain’t enough synonyms of stupid in the dictionary.

    Ow-ee.

  7. #8 Dianne
    July 3, 2006

    Are there days when I should not avoid terrorist attacks?

    The other 14 days in September? Interestingly, you were not supposed to avoid air travel on Sept 11, 2001. Oops.

  8. #9 Kristine
    July 3, 2006

    Self-control? I was horrified (no, never met one before)…and our hostess had just set down the taco dip right in front of me. Something made me really hungry just then. (I was glad to see that the sun-gazer had some, too.)

  9. #10 Kristjan Wager
    July 3, 2006

    Wow. You me a real life breatharian? And you went “Aaah!” without the traditional “hahahahaha!” followup. I admire your self-control.

    Wow… just wow. Never heard about breatharianism before, but they are even more wacko than most crackpots, aren’t they?

  10. #11 M
    July 3, 2006

    Breatharianism is…bizarre, but I do have to say that standing barefoot in grass, eyes closed, arms spread a bit with my face turned up towards the Sun is very relaxing on a warm day. Basking is just plain enjoyable.

  11. #12 Bronze Dog
    July 3, 2006

    Under the category of “Avoid: Terrorist Attacks” she listed more than 130 dates in 2001.

    The score is 1-129. Doing better than ID.

  12. #13 bernarda
    July 3, 2006

    I haven’t seen this mentioned, but probably many of you know about it. It is the PBS/Nova program about string theory. The whole program is available on the PBS site.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/program.html

    It is quite a step above astrology. For those of you who missed the program, now you can have it.

  13. #14 wheatdogg
    July 3, 2006

    No One Of Consequence –

    You forgot (7) A bus with many passengers will plunge off a mountain road this year somewhere in South America.
    and (8) Someone in office will lie to the public before the November elections.

    Wiley Brooks, a breatharian guru of sort, was once spotted leaving a 7-11 with an armload of junk food. I guess it’s hard to make money convincing suckers to become “Little Debbians,” or “Twinkians.” Better to convince them they can be like trees.

  14. #15 wolfa
    July 3, 2006

    I want to know on average, how many days a year have terrorist attacks somewhere in the world. Because I’m betting it’s something pretty close to 365.

  15. #16 Julie Stahlhut
    July 3, 2006

    Actually, Sparks had it all covered quite a few years ago:

    http://www.lyricsdomain.com/19/sparks/i_predict.html

  16. #17 fruktkake
    July 3, 2006

    Oh gob, I love that breatharian guy, he actually said we are all one big family!
    swoon…

  17. #18 lightning
    July 3, 2006

    Interesting. After JFK was killed, it seems that every psychic in the world had predicted it. He must have been swamped with “don’t go to Dallas” messages. Naturally, we only heard about this *after* the assassination.

    I’ve seen remarkably few psychics claiming to have “predicted” recent disasters.

    Hypothesis: the Great Idiot Public really is getting smarter.

  18. #19 David Harmon
    July 3, 2006

    Ecclesiastes: “I looked and saw that under the sun, the race is not to the swift… but time and chance happen to all”

    I seem to recall a different version, saying “the race goes not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but only to those who run the race or fight the battle”. I thought that was from Aristotle, but poking through my copy of Nicomachian Ethics, I find only a briefer version: (1099a) “… just as Olympic prizes are not for the finest or strongest, but for contestants, since it is only these who win…”

  19. #20 Blake Stacey
    July 3, 2006

    The 9/11 attacks were predicted by the science historian James Burke, all the way back in 1978. Don’t believe me? Watch the first episode of his series Connections, “The Trigger Effect”. This episode lays out his thesis that technological society is like a network, each part of which is interdependent upon all the others, so that changing or destroying one part causes effects to spread throughout the entire system (prescient of the modern quantitative studies of network robustness, in a metaphorical way). Burke used this analogy to explore the ways our technological society functions on a daily basis, and the insolubly wedded question of how technological change occurs. Case in point: a hefty segment of “The Trigger Effect” is a re-enactment of the Great Northeastern Blackout, which was triggered by a single maladapted relay at the Adam Beck Two power station in Niagara Falls.

    What does all this have to do with terrorists flying planes into Manhattan? Well, just this: one of the groups the re-enactment follows is the crew of an airplane on approach to JFK when the power dies. Specifically, Scandinavian Airlines, flight 911. When the approach control systems all die, the pilot is in serious trouble, “heading straight for New York in the darkness”.

    Pop-science television shows predict the future!

  20. #21 Tom Renbarger
    July 3, 2006

    Wasn’t there a Red Hot Chili Peppers song about the Power of Astrology?

  21. #22 CCC
    July 3, 2006

    I was a bookseller until I had to give it up due to my disability. The last few days I’ve put plastic bins full of thousands of books in the driveway witgh signs saying “FREE BOOKS.” Have to get rid of them, want them to go to good homes.

    People have been great, and interesting. One woman who was looking for art books asked why I was giving them away, and upon hearing my explanation, asked if I had “talked to Jesus” about my disability.

    “I’m not a religious person,” I tried to say as politely as possible.

    “That’s ok, forget religion, I’m talking about Jesus. You don’t have to be religious. Just talk to him like you’re talking to me. He’ll give you what you ask for.”

    I smiled and she went on with her searching, and within minutes found an art book and rushed to me saying “See? I told you! Just talk to Jesus about what you need and he’ll give it to you!”

    Imagine the odds of coming across an art book in a meagre stash of thousands of books of a book dealer who specialized in history, architecture and art books.

    She was a very nice lady, though, and she tipped me well.
    Actually, quite a number of religious folks came by, and the only ones who truly scared me were the old couple wearing red, white and blue ribbons, flag emblems, church insignia, and asking for “Left Behind” books.

  22. #23 petomai
    July 3, 2006

    Craig Pennington:

    Wow! I’ve only heard the term ‘breatharian’ once, and I ran like hell. I was reading V.S. Ramachandran at a bookstore one day when I was approached by a strange-ish man who struck up a conversation that was sort of about cognitive science. The talk cannoballed into vague philosophical nothings rather swiftly, but it was generally entertaining and frequently amusing.

    The guy said he was working on a book of some kind, and since he hadn’t read a lot of the stuff I was referring to, he’d very much like to sit down and pick my brain. I was dubious, but my vanity got the best of me and I told him to email me sometime and we could grab coffee and chat.

    I figured he would just disappear, but a few days later I got an email inviting me out. Since the coffeeshop was so close to my place and I was feeling generally charitable that day, I strolled down the block to meet him.

    Apparently, he’d been there for a while, as he was sitting at a table piled high with Uh-Oh-type books (can’t remember any now, but Behold A Pale Horse type of shit) when I arrived. It being too late to flee, I said hey, and told him I was going to order a cappuccino and did he want a drink?

    Sure, he said. Coffee.

    So I get the guy a coffee. He starts talking, and in between sentences he keeps taking these giant sniffs and like yoga-breaths over the top of his oversized mug. This puzzles me, but I figure it’s some of family-idiosyncratic ritual for the cooling-off of drinks with which I’m unfamiliar and in no position to judge.

    But after about twenty minutes, my own cappuccino long-since empty, the guy is still going at it, and he hasn’t taken a single sip.

    Dude, I finally say–what are you doing to your coffee?

    He looks at me triumphantly, as though he’d been attempting to elicit this question the entire time.

    I’m a Breatharian, he says.

    I nod sagely, like it’s something I hear everyday. I then proceed to scribble down a book list and boogie as fast as I can.

    Um–actually, that’s pretty much the whole story. Not that exciting, really, plus massively anti-climactic. Sorry. But I’ve not yet had the opportunity to relay this anecdote, as ‘breatharianism’, thankfully, is not too common a topic. So I saw my chance and took it, I guess. Yeah. ;-)

  23. #24 melior
    July 3, 2006

    “Two nations will go to war, but only one shall win.”

    “A man in Istanbul will have his hat blocked, and it shall be ruined.”

    – Woody Allen, after Nostradamus

  24. #25 Bob O'H
    July 4, 2006

    If an astrologer tells me to “avoid terrorist attacks,” how do I do so?

    Didn’t you get the memo? You email everyone else in the Evil Atheist Conspiracy and tell them that you’ve got something important planned that day.

    I even managed to get Islamic Jihad to stop a bombing because I was washing the cat.

    Bob

  25. #26 bernarda
    July 4, 2006

    The bible is sometimes right, just as a broken clock is right two times a day.

  26. #27 Carlie
    July 4, 2006

    “Wasn’t there a Red Hot Chili Peppers song about the Power of Astrology?”

    Dunno, but there was a Weird Al Yankovic song about astrology. My favorite line: “The stars predict tomorrow you’ll wake up, do a bunch of stuff, and then go back to sleep”

  27. #28 NelC
    July 4, 2006

    You want impressive powers of prediction, go to Youtube and search for The Lone Gunmen. It’s one of the 3:58 length clips. Transmitted in early 2001, I should point out.

  28. #29 Keith Douglas
    July 4, 2006

    Jim Harrison: But Bush should read the next verse which is, as I recall,: “Nor the battle to the strong”, which sounds like Sun Tzu for some reason.

    melior: Actually, there’s the Greek prophecy story a bit like that – someone asked (I think the Delphic oracle) for advice in a forthcoming battle. The advice was: “A great army will be destroyed” or something like that. This was taken as a good thing. Unfortunately, it was the asker’s army!

    Carlie: Do you happen to know the name of that song? I’m a minor fan of Weird Al and wouldn’t mind adding that to the “skepticism resources” I’m on-again-off-again collecting.

  29. #30 Carlie
    July 4, 2006

    Keith: It’s called “Your horoscope for today” and is on the Running With Scissors album. One of his best, in my opinion.