Generally speaking, I stay away from the main Skeptic topics. Mostly because they are so obviously wrong, and also because the topic is well-addressed by people who don’t have an additional interest in economics and social reform (the main topics I address on this blog).
But scammer-extraordinaire Matthew Currie has decided to loudly object to the James Randi Foundation (of which I am not a huge fan, for unrelated reasons) calling Astrology nonsense. And his open letter is just chock full of bullshit, it’s painful to read.
In this port, I will be responding to two of his articles: Eight Things Skeptics of Astrology Don’t Get and http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/ohmystars/2013/12/dear-skeptic-part-two-please-curb-your-dogma.html. This post has more expletives than usual.
Matthew has made a list of Eight Things Skeptics of Astrology Don’t Get, and the list would be better renamed “Matthew Currie dodges several criticisms of Astrology”. In point form:
1. The alleged skeptic hasn’t looked into Astrology, and so is unaware that Astrology really refers to a section of sky (neatly divided into 12 sections), rather than actual constellations. Note: that the night sky is drawn into 12 arbitrary sections that have no basis on actual physical things is not considered a weakness by Currie. Why? Possibly because he doesn’t understand that actual ‘knowledge’ is based on things that are real, rather than arbitrary lines in the sand.
2. “Astrology doesn’t line up with any known force, like gravity or electromagnetism, so how can the planets influence us?“
This is something of a significant problem. If there’s a real force in the world that does not fall in line with the only four identified forces in the universe, then you have a nobel prize on the way. However, if that force doesn’t exist, then you are scamming people out of money. Here are the options: identify the force in question, or stand accused of being a fraud. Matthew chooses to be accused of fraud. Phil Plait did an excellent take down of this line of lies.
Now lets say that you are a peddler of lies and bullshit, and you want to protect your snake oil: “take a pill” is not a response that actually engages with the criticism as presented. This is an entirely irrelevant response.
3. “How can 1/12th of the people on Earth all be having exactly the same kind of day?“
It’s fun to misrepresent arguments, because then you don’t actually have to deal with them. However, when we care about the topic, the best move is to improve the counter argument as much as possible.
One of the many problems with Astrology is it’s incompatibility with other Liberal European ideological positions: we are all individuals. When creating an astrological chart, only three pieces of information are required: your date of birth, your time of birth (to within 15min) and your location of birth (major city).
So the issue here is that anyone born in Shanghai, or Tokyo, or London, within 20-30 minutes of each other have precisely the same star chart. This means, according to Astrology, that they have the same personality and the same future. Not only does this fly in the face of our ideology, it’s obvious and empirically FALSE.
But hey, let’s focus on the obviously-false sun-signs (of which everyone born within a 30-day period shares).
4. “Astrologers are just making money off of the gullible!“
Curries response to this (““Got any stock tips?”) has to be my favourite: “yes, I’m scamming you. So what?” Thank you for admitting that you are a lying piece of shit. Shame we have 4 more of these to do.
5. ” “Other planets have been discovered since Astrology began, so how can that old Astrology still be accurate?”
So this is, again, a valid question. It doesn’t matter a damn how badly other sciences screwed up before being dependable: their screwups are not points in your favour. Either Astrology was accurate prior to the discovery of additional planets, or it was not. If it was before, how is it now? If it wasn’t before, then you don’t get to claim that it’s been accurate for hundreds of years. This is not complicated, and is the mark of a scumbag scammer to claim otherwise. Yes, you, Matthew Currie, are a scumbag scammer.
6. “Where’s your proof that Astrology works?”
Response:“Can I borrow a cup of Dark Matter?”
This is my second favourite response: “I don’t have any proof whatsoever, but hey, please look at this speculative science that has a shit-ton of evidence in it’s favour. I’m going to mock that to distract from my lack of evidence”.
Seriously, Currie? Your response to criticism is “Look! A 3-headed monkey!”??? Fucking fail.
7. I really don’t care about this. I have no idea who considers Astrology to be a form of bigotry. Sure, deciding to date people based on when they are born is just another way to judge people based on biological factors outside of their control, but “real” Astrology doesn’t ascribe people personality types based on what planet was in your sun sign. That’s the bullshit newspaper Astrology.
Real astrologers will assign you personality-types based on where the Sun was when you were born (30-day range), the Moon was (emotional-type, a 2-2.5day range), your ascendent (i.e. what house was appearing over the horizon when you were born, changes every few hours, and this is considered by many astrologers to be the dominant influence on you and your life).
So yeah, dating based on this is bigotry. Worse, none of these things determine your personality, at all. Astrologers, if they wish to be more than bullshit artists, need to actually support their claims, rather than mocking criticism.
8. “Astrology is nonsense, and people only believe in it because they want to believe in it.”
This is presented as a possible psychological explanation for why people people continue to buy into Astrology. Currie does a pretty good job of explaining it, and then simply claims that skeptics are falling prey to the same bias, without any evidence to support his position.
To sum up: Astrology is a lie, and anyone selling it is a lying, scamming piece of shit. Yes, Matthew Currie: you are a lying, scamming piece of shit. At best, you are an ignorant fool who has chosen not to examine how Astrology works in order to maintain the fiction that you “honestly” believe that it does. Please, sue me. I look forward to it. You scamming dirtbag.
[Edit: There’s at least one commenter stuck in moderation due to an inability to parse the following: intention has nothing to with this. It’s possible to run a scam unintentionally, as a result of a failure to do due diligence, to confirm that the thing or service you are selling actually does what you say it does. If I’m claiming that something works, and it doesn’t, my ignorance is no defence against the claim that I’m scamming people out of money. The fact that I’m doing it out of ignorance rather than malice slightly mitigates the problem, but when you’ve had ample time to research your own product? And still selling something that doesn’t do what you claim it does? Scamming scumbag.]
EDIT: Here’s an excellent article about an astrologer who actually figured out that they, themselves, were scamming people.