Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stars, science, and Cherokee rattlesnake prophecies

It is an inevitable consequence of writing daily on this blog that I get a lot of emails, some of them from people I've pissed off.

Although none of them could quite live up to the three-page screed I got last year from a young-earth creationist who ended by calling me a "worthless wanker," one I got this week comes close -- if not in passion, at least in general disconnect from reality.

The writer, who signed off as "Eva," took me to task for filing astrology, Tarot, divination, Mayan prophecies, and so on under the collective heading of "woo-woo" (and summarily dismissing the lot).

"In your close mindedness," Eva writes, "you are missing the fact that modern astrologers and students of the mystical have learned from the approach of your beloved scientists, not only has our precision become better, we now combine many different fields of study, using each one to carefully check our predictions.  We then only make public the statements that can be verified by this comparative process.  Divination has only a short way to go to truly become a science."

Well, now.  Where do I start?

My first response was to express some incredulity that she was really comparing what scientists do -- to take one example, the use of data and measurements from chemistry, physics, and geology to develop the theory of plate tectonics -- to what astrologers do.  Does she really think that if an astrologer predicts that your Star Signs say that you're going to fall down the stairs and break your leg next Tuesday, and a Tarot card reader does a reading for you and says the same thing, that this is some sort of independent corroboration of the method?  But of course, that really is what she thinks.  The lack of a mechanism by which astrology could possibly work, not to mention the lack of evidence that it does work, never seems to bother her.

But as the infomercials always say, "Wait!  There's MORE!":

"Although we differ in our beliefs, I don't want you to consider this a criticism of you as a person.  I'm sure you're trying in your own way to reach enlightenment, we all are, it's all a process and we're all on our own spiritual paths, I am just trying to encourage you to open your mind that there could be other possibilities than the narrow view of the world that science has produced is."

I showed a friend of mine Eva's email, and her response was, "Wow, she really is the Queen of the Comma Splice, isn't she?"  Not to mention the last clause, which (despite my MA in linguistics) completely defeated me when I attempted to parse it.  But any structural editing concerns aside, I have to admit that Eva is showing a good bit more kindness and tolerance than a lot of my other critics have, and for that I'm grateful.  I did take issue with the "narrow view" comment, but I guess that's to be expected.

"I would encourage you to take a look at a website that I think is one of the best out there, it will demonstrate for you that there are many approaches to knowledge that bring fruitfulness and enlightenment, and embody that scientific approach I mentioned, I hope you can view it with an open mind and not dismiss it as 'woo-woo' without giving it some thought, not just with your mind but with your heart too.

"Walking together in light and love, Eva."

And she ended with a link to a webpage called DarkAstrology, of which I will quote only the first paragraph:
The 2012 Astrology Forecast is very interesting because this year has been much anticipated due to Mayan and other predictions. There are actually a great deal of extremely significant astrological aspects and eclipses to back up all the excitement. Uranus square Pluto is a very big deal, responsible for the growing financial turmoil and revolutions. There is a rare Transit of Venus, a total solar eclipse in the Pleiades Star Cluster of Taurus, and finally a Jupiter Yod in the Bulls Eye of Taurus.
Oh, my, yes, this does convince me.  A Jupiter Yod in the Bull's Eye of Taurus.  That has to mean, um, something important, I'm sure.  And later on, when it does some Highly Scientific Corroboration by looking at other fields of study -- Sumerian oracle stars and Cherokee rattlesnake prophecies seem to be two of the most important ones -- it just adds up to all kinds of Enlightenment Beyond The Narrow View Of Science.

I'm sorry if I'm coming across as snarky, because Eva really was quite nice, and seemed like she was trying to reach out to me in my closed-mindedness.  Sadly, DarkAstrology just isn't doing it for me.  Science isn't about making stuff up, and then checking to see if you're right by talking to other people who have made stuff up to see if they agree with you.  It's based on this pesky little thing called evidence, and unfortunately for the "science of divination," there isn't any.

All of this makes me feel kind of mean-spirited, really, after Eva wished me love and enlightenment and so on.  Maybe I am a worthless wanker after all.  Oh, well, perhaps that's just where I currently am on my "spiritual path."

1 comment:

  1. Won't you feel silly when the world does end after all.