Reproduced from the
It's in the stars.Or so people throughout
the ages have imagined,looking upwards at the heavens in search of some great
meaning in that terrifying void.Everyman (BBC1) [Video:BB24,N24/5 &HotM
N2,JB8] this Sunday charts the history of
astrology from the earliest times -and leaves
a surprisingly ambiguous message at the end:it's up to you,believe it
if you want.
When frightened,people have always sought to personalise the impersonal,to
find some human traits in the harsh physical universe around us.Someone
or something out there must know about us,care about us,influence us.We can't
be all alone,can we? Of course,the magical movement of the stars has attracted
attention from the start.they are so beautiful, they must have been put there
to tell us something, if only we could understand their message.So we found
a meaning and clung to it.We now live in a time when the majority of people
think their is something in astrology. The more science tells us about these
empty planets and stars,the more we pursue the barmy belief in their mystical
"No,no - I don't believe in astrology,"people often say when asked,but then
add,"Funny thing,though I'm an absolutely classic Taurus".Maybe it's because
I'm a Capricorn,the horrible old goat-cold, rational,
sensible,calculating,mercenary [Spooky,Polly.So am I.There
must be something in it if two of us conform eh?-LB]an altogether
unattractive star sign - that I have always rejected this utter tosh.
Also I have non-identical twin brothers,born within minutes of one another,yet
as different as both could be,so how is Pisces supposed to represent them
This programme shows how often astrology has
been interwoven with Christianity. After
all,what were the magi up to,following their star? Astonishingly,the Church
of England produced a report a couple of years ago,Search for
Faith,which more or less endorsed astrology,so long as it was used
to reinforce Christ and his message.Surely not? But yes,they really did.The
programme also features one Liberal Catholic,The Rev Pamela Crane,who has
devoted her life to showing how Christianity can be found in the stars,
through astrological charts.
At this point the poor old church really seems to have lost its last remaining
marbles.If its doctrine is about anything,it must be
about free will.Each
of us can make ourselves better or worse,our destiny is in our own hands.Only
a few Calvinist sects ever believed you were saved or damned already at
birth,one of the chosen few or not,without having to do any good to
earn salvation.How desperate can the church be,how broad and woolly,if
it can encompass the notion that our characters and fate can be
Believing that the stars influence us and set the course of our lives is
supposed to make us feel linked to the universe,a comforting unity to
bolster any feeling of insignificance we may have when gazing up at all that
space.But astrology seems to have the opposite effect,removing our
individuality by making us pawns in an unseen game.Better to face up to the
fact that we are alone,here for a short time,in control of our own small
destiny to make of it the best we can.
Superstition always seems to get the upper hand.Science should be driving
it back,but the more incomprehensible physics becomes to the layman
- those mysterious black holes,the theory of relativity- the more people
are inclined to say,"You see,it's all far more bizarre than we thought".
Because a few of us can understand physics,we tend to treat its mysteries
like any superstitious mumbo-jumbo - all part of the great unknown.The truth
is out there,but if you didn't do physics A level, forget
it.[Good job I did then isn't it?-LB]
Astrology is a clever trick.It has survived because it follows real
starcharts and in early times there was no distinction between it and
astronomy.Its predictions are so cunningly Delphic you can read into them
what you will.It's hard not to find something to apply to your own life among
the banal generalities in horoscopes.Why do people read them so avidly?
We could still be living in the Dark Ages.Can people really think that the
movements of rocks and gases millions of miles away shape our little human
lives? How can what Saturn is doing to Jupiter on the day a baby is born
predict its character? And what exactly is so special about the moment of
birth, [Especially given Einstein's Theory of
Relativity-LB],in these days when a baby might be weeks premature
or late induced? We are more educated than ever,yet sometimes we seem just
as silly as we were at the dawn of time.
Letters to Radio Times
Reading Polly Toynbee's piece about horoscopes (RT 24-30 May), I was horrified
to see that,once again,an uninformed and one-sided view on the topic is in
print.True,many magazine horoscopes can be interpreted to fit some aspect
of everyone's life and many people do not fit the category of star sign under
which they were born.But really,the "writer of the year" should adopt a wider
Surely if Ms Toynbee proffers a critique on this topic she should do
the reader the courtesy of thorough research.May I advise Ms Toynbee not
to view astrology solely through the eyes of the Mystic Megs of this world?
Astrology is more than just tabloid star signs.Differing personalities
of twin brothers can be explained by differing ascendant signs.These change
within ten -minute periods - and twins need not be born in the same ten
minutes.This is what is "so special about the actual moment of birth". The
moment of birth doesn't determine life's blueprint,but rather influences
personality which contributes to the decisions made throughout life.
Stockton -on -Tees,Cleveland
... As a contributor to Everyman's documentary on the history of astrology
(25 May, BBC1) I'd like to correct Polly Toynbee's misapprehensions.
No astrologer believes that lumps of rock or gas in the sky exert an
influence on life on earth,with the exceptions of the sun and moon.Astrology
is best understood as the study of the relationship between different
patterns,chiefly planetary cycles and events on earth.
the basic assumption is that different times have different qualities,and
the rationale for the use of the planets to understand these is found
in Plato's belief that the planets are the "keepers" or "markers" of time;
in other words,the clock on the mantelpiece doesn't cause time to move on
but it does mark out the key moments of our lives.
President,The Astrological Association,London N1
My Letter to N.Campion
Dear Mr Campion,
With Respect to your letter in the Radio Times,you say that,"No astrologer
believes that lumps of rock or gas exert influence on life on earth,with
the obvious exceptions of the sun and moon".
The moon is a lump of rock,and the sun is a ball of gas,both of which
exert influence over the earth.How can you make obvious exceptions of these
two? If these do,then so do all the other planets in the same way. This is
typical of the illogical and ignorant view of astrology and mysticism in
general. You cannot make exceptions of the moon and
sun just because they exert the greatest
influence. What Polly Toynbee is seeking to address is that solar system
bodies do not literally guide our feelings and motivations.There is no
"rationale" to astrology,it is an ancient and out of date methodology used
in Medieval times to explain things that they did not understand.If it is
so rational,then why does it always use scientific arguments to justify
Time is more complicated than you will ever know,it is not just marked
out by simple planetary movements,but integrated into the very fabric of
space via the space time continuum.The simplistic explanations put forward
by Mystics/Astrologers is because they cannot handle the more complicated
position of Science. In their quest to explain events in a non-scientific
way they have to allude to scientific methodologies merely because Science
is based on what is seen to be true. As evidence,I recently bought an issue
of "Predictions" subtitled "Nature's Patterns".In it astrologers are advocating
the use of computers to create astrological maps,complete with two inherent
"interpretations",either the world is one way or it is another,one cannot
interpret it how one wishes to. Why do these people make use of computers
in this way when computers were born out of a mathematical/physical understanding
of the universe? Likewise one author seeks to utilise the science of
"Chaos Theory" and
"Fractals" to show what is wrong with scientific
understanding. Why would he do this and then go on to say that mystics should
"embrace" fractals as they are a symbol of science being defeated by nature?
Science invented/created fractals,they are not a conundrum,but a greater
understanding.Mystics did not invent computers or fractals,but they try to
integrate both into their pseudo-scientific belief.
To show you how psychic I am,I am going to make a prediction -
In the years hence there will be a metaphysical battle between rational thought
and mysticism (in fact I foresaw this years ago),probably ending in the death
of rationalism, because the majority of people are ill-educated in scientific
methodologies,and see the explanations as boring or hum-drum.They need a
universe with values,and a need for "something greater" or more human in
its relationship with physical things. I can see this without looking at
the planetary aspect of Jupiter with respect to Mars!
Polly Toynbee is correct in asserting that "The truth is out there,but
if you didn't do A-level Physics,forget it",and that "Superstition always
seems to get the upper hand". I did do A-level physics and Maths and
Computer Science.I am here to tell you that the reason superstition
holds the upper hand is because more people believe it,not out of its
validity,but because the mass of people are simple and need simple
explanations,so they refer back to the middle ages when things were simpler.The
rest of us who do understand what is happening are laughing at the simplicity
of your explanations and the way you try to pinch bits of physics in order
to lend credence to your ridiculous way of seeing things. You are in exactly
the same position as a religious person who says the eye is too complicated
to be explained by evolution.Why pick the eye? It is a cellular structure
just like every other living part.The question is stupid,because it shows
the ignorance of the questioner.
Planetary cycles and events on earth are already understood in terms
of emergent behaviour and chaos theory and Newton,Maxwell and Lorenz's
theories,as well as countless others. The scientific methodology is an integrated
approach that covers all aspects of endeavour. There is no rational explanation
for astrology,other than as a vestigial hangover from a previous era in human
thinking,as such it is naive,simple,and well past its sell by
date.Mystics/astrologers should grow up,and read some other material other
than "cosmic forces affect my station in life" type scenarios,that can easily
be logically undermined by someone with more than two brain cells.
Numerology,for example can easily be shown to
be impractical in its assertions,but still utilises the idea of number as
a representational form,and as such is based on primitive mathematical
assertions.Science was born from the inadequacies of mysticism and that's
why we have TV,video,radio,lasers,phones,aeroplanes,computers and interplanetary
probes.Mystics could never have achieved these things because their world
view is just plain wrong,what's more it is dangerous,as it promulgates
The way that we feel on any particular day is not due to a conjunction
or a planet in a particular house,it is due to the quantum-mechanical operation
of the biochemical constituents of the brain.But then how would you know,have
you ever checked? No,because you can't understand such things.I am currently
in the midst of checking out mysticism/astrology because,if I didn't it would
be unscientific of me to dismiss it.In the words of the other contributor
to RT, I am doing them "the courtesy of thorough research".The more I research
it,the more stupid it becomes,and the more of my time I waste.
The planets are the subject of the N-body problem put forward by
Poincare,no astrologer ever makes reference to this,as a historic fact.Why?
Because they have either never heard of it or they don't know what it means,
because it requires an understanding of non-linear mathematics.But astrologers
cannot understand that,so they ignore it,or try to subsume the parts they
can grasp into their explanations
On hearing of the 13th constellation of Ophiuchus,astrologers were
put into a quandary as to what to say,in regard to the fact that they had
only taken into account 12 constellations,they,of course were unaware of
the astronomical idea of precession,if they were,then they would have
told the public that the 13th constellation needed to be taken into account.BUT
THEY DIDN'T.An astronomer made this public,as only he had the knowledge
to do so.
What was the reaction of the astrologers - They panicked.Their reactions
varied,some said it didn't exist,some said they knew of it,some said it wasn't
important.It threw all their ideas into turmoil,because their ideas are WRONG.
There was no co-ordinated rebuttal from astrologers,because there couldn't
have been one.With all their powers to see the future,not single one of them
knew that a 13th constellation would throw their nonsense into
There have been various subsequent rebuttals,AFTER THE FACT,when
astrologers have had time to think,and plan how to cope with a 13
constellation.Some blame astronomers for moving the goalposts,others blame
Ptolemy or Copernicus.Still others try to suggest that it is completely
consistent with their ideas. Then why is there no 13th sign in the newspapers?
Because the public would be confused.Is it 12 or 13? You have to keep it
simple,so keep 12,if you tell them 13,you would have to explain why,astrology
can't do that because it doesn't know how.
Rachel Pinder,the other contributor explains that personality is affected
by the time of one's birth.How does she know this? She doesn't.She just
believes it.It can't be proved.When has any correlative experiments
ever been done to show definitively that there is any such connection? A
few,have shown some "statistically significant corellation".But I know enough
about statistics to know that they can show anything one wants,if one is
Anyhow,why does the astrological community even accept that there should
be a proven statistical correlation? Some do.Some don't.That's just
my point,they don't have an integrated viewpoint.They can't,because it's
interpretive,and cannot lead to a consistent view.
The only correlation between people and planetary bodies is given by the
physical description containing gravity, electromagnetism and nuclear forces,if
you need any more then I suggest you read "The
Emperor's New Mind" by Roger
Penrose.But you won't,because you need A-level mathematics to understand
it.Sorry,but if you are simple,you are simple,if you want to know what is,you
must look at what actually happens as opposed to what you believe or want
Astrology is a belief,as much as religion is a belief,and as such can never
be proved,that's why it holds such sway,anybody having to defend themselves
astrologically,does not need evidence,they just say that it is due to the
"cosmic influence".What is this? How does one prove its existence? Astrologers
do not have to define what their terms are to the masses,and that's why the
masses believe them.It's easy.No hard maths involved.No abstract contortions
of space-time.No evidence needed.You just have to believe.
Astrology also invokes fatalism in a belief system.Old arguments such
as Freewill vs Determinism are left on the shelf or for philosophers/
mathematicians/ physicists to sort out.But fatalism is inherently inconsistent
with the facts,this is not shown to the general public as it would prove
what a farce astrology is,should the public be intelligent enough to know
what fatalism is.But they don't,and astrology takes advantage of this,by
promulgating the idea that the future can be known.It can't even in principle,so
how do they do it? They don't explain,because they don't have to.
Astrology is nothing more than
statements" correlated with the movement of planets leftover from Medieval
attempts at astronomy.People WANT to believe that the heavens govern their
actions,and so,they do believe it. They cannot accept responsibility for
their own lives.So they use astrology to say "the reason I was angry
at you was because Mars was in the ascendant".It's delusion created by simple
people for simple people,it can never be anything else.
Hopefully,in this, I am "driving it back" as Polly Toynbee suggests should
Needless to say,no reply was forthcoming.
Stars in their brains
Witness on horoscopes (18 June, C4) was scary, not just
for the fact that people really believe this stuff, but that some even run
their businesses by it, and even scarier, it would appear, that a certain
US president, via his wife, ran his government by it.
A couple of quotations come to mind - one, I think, attributable to Patrick
Moore: "The only thing that astrology proves is that there's one born every
minute," and the other (I'm not sure who said it): "When people
stop believing in God, they don't believe in
nothing, they believe in anything."
So, far from giving me any spiritual comfort, I'm afraid it all makes me
very sad and concerned. And before anyone asks: no, I don't know my star
sign, and that doesn't worry me at all!
R Wood Taunton, Somerset
Radio Times 8-14 July 2000
Signs of utter disbelief
Why has it taken so long to debunk astrology? (News,August
17).Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that it is complete bunkum
and that astrologers are
advantage of illogical,self-centred people.
How can planets millions of miles away have any breaing on the lives of people
on Earth? On average,half a billion people share each birth sign.So,according
to tabloid astrologer,one horoscope report true for each one of them,whether
that person is a Hollywood star or a starving Third World child.
Congratulations on your article debunking astrology.Doubtless you will have
vituperation heaped on you from all angles by gullible
True Believers.In your defence I offer the opinion
of Sir Patrick Moore,that redoubtable expert on the cosmos,who said : "Astrology
proves only one thing,namely that there is one born every minute!"
[ Sunday Telegraph 24Aug 2003]