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Astrology is valid science?

Not from The Onion: US biochemistry professor admits that astrology would be considered valid science according to his own personal definition. Said a spectator of Pennsylvania ID trial: “I can’t believe he teaches a college biology class”.

Reader comments

TxovOct 19, 2005 at 6:54PM

Daniel in the lions' den, indeed. Let's just hope no science teacher uses that metaphor in class! Snarf, snarf.

Rob HydeOct 19, 2005 at 6:55PM

From the article: a definition for what constitutes a scientific theory: "Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses."

So that excludes evolution then.

jmireOct 19, 2005 at 7:15PM

Reading any of this stuff on intelligent design just makes me want to stop and ask "Wait a second. What the hell is this? Are you people insane!??". But then, what did reason and logic ever do for anyone?

Punching JudyOct 20, 2005 at 9:05AM

Astrology is well-substantiated how? I think I may vomit.

Nick BurkaOct 20, 2005 at 10:06AM

There's a curious anecdote about astrology in Kary Mullis' Dancing Naked in the Mindfield. Mullis is the winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry (for work on DNA). A self-proclaimed radical when it comes to challenging the realms of science, Mullis' provocative claim is that astrology hasn't received enough scientific testing to prove it doesn't have a rational basis. (Mullis probably wouldn't support ID btw)

Bo BrockOct 20, 2005 at 11:01AM

Unfortunately, the I.D. people are well-positioned to make headway. Any credible scientist is going to agree, "Yes, evolution is only a theory. We can only go on what we know, and there are a lot of gaps in what we know." Most people are uncomfortable with gaps in their understanding of the world, and the non-scientific (most of the world's people) find it easy to fall back on the comfort of stuff like I.D., while the scientists are more comfortable trying to fill the gaps in our knowledge.

Even Richard Dawkins doesn't debate the I.D. people any more, in part because it is logically impossible to prove them wrong. You always have to concede that a supreme being might have created everything we see, even if it that is exclusively through the mechanism of evolution. The most you can say is that (a) you don't see any evidence of a supreme being and (b) a supreme being is not necessary to explain what we see here from Earth -- hardly a winning argument among the devout.

It's a significant comment on the quality of science education in this country that people like us are not confident enough to let I.D. into the public schools. Shouldn't students immediately see that I.D. is a bogus and unnecessary idea -- in fact, not a theory at all? As they grow older, won't they be able to fall back on both their faith in God and a basic understanding of evolutionary theory? (The two are not mutually exclusive, and both help us understand, or cope with, the world we see.)

Indeed, even as a non-believer I find myself siding more with the Christian conservatives: we should just let them teach it and see which "theory" prevails. Either way, Americans get what we deserve. Or, as the Zippers put it:

You may not get what you want
But you always get what's comin'

Mark M. SmithOct 20, 2005 at 12:10PM

Something I've always found rather interesting was a point brought up back in my astonomy course in high school. The zodiac signs were determined and assigned to specific date ranges quite a long time ago. During that period of time the universe has continued to move as it is wont to and as a result most of the zodiac signs are actually off for most people. I forget what the exact shift discussed in class was, but it was usually enough to move you to one sign earlier than what the printed dates would indicate. Only those at the exteme ends (e.g. being born on August 21st I'm almost at the end of being a Leo) tend to stay within the same sign.

Now, taking that people have seemingly found meaning in the incorrect signs it has to call the entire concept into pretty serious question. I think an interesting experiment could be done along these lines by say, giving a group of people a chart with the signs scrambled up a bit from where they should normally lie (ideally something that the average American is less familiar with, such as perhaps the Chinese zodiac) and have them follow it for 30 days. If they derive approximately the same level of depth and meaning from it as the control group with the normal date ranges then it would seem to indicate rather simply that it's completely observer bias.

JemaleddinOct 20, 2005 at 12:25PM

Bo: "Yes, evolution is only a theory. "

I don't think you know what a theory is in science. From The Fine Article:

“Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.”

There's nothing "only" about a theory.

BO: "Indeed, even as a non-believer I find myself siding more with the Christian conservatives: we should just let them teach it and see which "theory" prevails."

And the reason that we cannot allow this is because ID isn't science at all. It isn't even bad science. ID is not falsifiable: it claims that an invisible, omnipotent creature designed the universe, but did so in such a way that nobody can tell that he did it. How do you perform a test of such a thing? What is there to teach about it? How does it help children learn what science is?

Evolution on the other hand is science. It is falsifiable: all you need to do is find one rabbit in the geological record sitting on a trilobite, and the whole thing would fall apart. But that's never happened.

Kids have a hard enough time learning what science is. Let's not allow them to be confused with this garbage.

JemaleddinOct 20, 2005 at 12:28PM

Mark: It's easier to test Astrology than that. Read your horoscope every day for a week. If those things don't happen, it's not true.

michaelOct 20, 2005 at 1:37PM

I do think that scientists should continue to debate these goofballs, if only to teach laypeople that, in a scientific context, "theory" is not synonymous with "speculation." A scientific theory is a model of the world supported by facts, not "gee, that's so complicated, it can't be explained." That the earth rotates around the sun is a fact; the theory which explains it is gravitational theory. They aren't categorical opposites.

And if we don't understand something, we look for as many facts as we can, and try to predict more behaviors; we don't look to God. Looking to God has it's place, but that's faith, not high school biology.

TokenMormonOct 20, 2005 at 3:38PM

Jemaleddin: The fact that you apparently think the way you test evolution is by pointing out that nobody has found a rabbit fossilized on top of a trilobite is indicative of a big part of the problem with the whole ID/Evolution debate: It's a contest between really, really stupid dimestore theologists and moderately stupid dimestore scientists, neither of whom have the slightest idea what they're talking about.

Evolution is a great theory. It's probably fact. Anyone who ignores that is probably stupid.

Intelligent design is not scientific, and as far as I can tell isn't based on any identifiable religious framework, either. It's really mostly a political tool, as far as I can tell. Anyone who embraces it has probably been hoodwinked.

Evolution says nothing about God, except that he/she/it probably didn't create anything out of whole cloth. It neither proves nor disproves the existence of a divine creator. Anyone who thinks otherwise should probably study science a little harder before engaging in the debate.

Anyone whose agenda is to discredit science should go back to the 13th century where they came from.

Anyone whose agenda is to discredit religion should probably reexamine their life and realize that figuring out what you DO believe in is probably more important than telling other people what NOT to believe in.

JemaleddinOct 20, 2005 at 3:57PM

TokenMormon: Just wondering, after reading that insulting statement, in what way do you disagree with me? Or how does any of that relate to what I wrote? Why does it feel like you copied and pasted that whole response from some other conversation?

I mean, you didn't say anything that disagreed with anything I said - so why the vitriol?

TokenMormonOct 20, 2005 at 4:03PM


No vitriol. The only part that related to what you said was the paragraph immediately following the colon after your name. The rest was general commentary on this thread.

I didn't intend to insult - I intended to complement you by putting you on the smarter side of the incredibly stupid ID/Evolution "debate." I also intended to show my disdain for your mischaracterization of the potential falsification of evolutionary theory. There's a lot better proof for evolution than the fact that it hasn't been disproved yet.

It probably feels like I copied and pasted because I used paragraphs and good punctuation.

No offense intended. Sorry.

RobHOct 21, 2005 at 5:35AM

"It [evolution] is falsifiable"

Whenever something comes along that appears to falsify it, the theory simply gets changed to work around it.

E.g. The sudden appearance of fully developed forms in the fossil record? No problem! Call it 'punctuated evolution'. So lack of evidence becomes evidence for something else.

I'm not saying that ID can be falsified either, but would like to question the supreme confidence of the Neo-Darwinists that their take on things is pure "science" - and that is the end of the matter.

Bo BrockOct 21, 2005 at 11:12AM

To Jemaleddin in particular ... my bet is that we're all preaching to the choir (ahem). Odds are, if you're reading, you're not a big fan of intelligent design and the idiots who promote it. The problem is that we live in a society where most people don't understand what, exactly, the scientific method promotes. Without that basic knowledge, the debate we're having is incomprehensible to them.

In fact, since more than half of Americans (according to the Pew Center) believe that homo sapiens sapiens didn't evolve from any other species, we might say the I.D. people have already won the war.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.