Saturday, July 01, 2006

What Works

Airing our predjudices: - Comments
Putting the Ass back into Astrology, I'll merely note there isn't any evidence showing it has any basis in fact.

We've got enough computer power these days to find out whether there ARE any correlations between the stars and the predictions based upon them. The same can't be said for, say, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, because it moves in "mysterious ways" like many other deities. (Yes, I know, Hitchhiker's Guide re Without faith, God is nothing.)

Astrology, numerology, magnetism's alleged health benefits and the like are different - they can be tested using the scientific method. For that matter, I've made it quite clear to the Supreme Being(s) that any time the Northern Lights spell out "Get your butt down to the Xxxxx church at Hh:Mm on Dd" - I'm there! Especially since the Northern Lights don't make it down my way very often.

(Note: If something works, it works. Just because we don't know why something works, or the reasons someone gives for it working are wrong, doesn't mean it doesn't really work. The Romans used concrete centuries before science discovered WHY concrete hardens. Thing is, I'd like someone to run the study showing evidence of astrology actually working.)

If you believe in something based on the evidence, and are willing to change your mind if new evidence comes along, you're a scientist. If you believe in it because of what someone else said, or your intuition, or faith - it's a religious belief.

Example: Many scientists around the turn of the century treated Newtonian physics as a religion. The more evidence supporting Einsteinian relativity grew, the angrier they got - and the more they refused to listen. Interestingly, Einstein refused to believe in quantum mechanics despite all the supporting evidence - another religious belief. (God does not play dice with the universe.
RepubAnon | Homepage | 06.27.06 - 10:57 pm | # - Comments
I think astrology endures because it ties into the whole human fascination with the night sky. Since early man people have put forth a lot of effort aligning pyramids, creating sophisticated sun/moon clocks, navigation techniques, you name it.

Those stars are hardwired right in the DNA somehow in a way so fundamental that we can easily suspend logic or belief when it comes to their mystery.

Astrology is an attempt to explain something that can't be explained. It offers up an explanation to an incomprehensible universe. It is kind of like playing dice with the universe because there are rules and I think that's the comfort. Like a universal lottery or scratch off ticket.

I tend to agree that God does not play dice with the universe but I wouldn't be surprised if we found out he was playing the part of the Ultimate Pit Boss.
SunWah? | 06.27.06 - 11:44 pm | # - Comments
I have the right to believe what I want, profess my beliefs, and (within the obvious legal limits) live by my beliefs.

Everyone else has the right to call me a fool.

Fair enough?
MellowMonotheist | 06.28.06 - 12:20 am | #

sincere belief in astrology has killed far less people than sincere belief in one's religion, so astrology is morally superior to religion in this agnostic's eyes.
renato | 06.28.06 - 12:40 am | - Comments
We should let WS have the last word on astrology:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.

He didn't have anything much to say about religion either, something which has always been surprising, considering he had something to say about everything else in the universe.

Daily Kos: Science Friday: The Edge of Infinity
D(ark)S(yde): What is Dark Matter?
S(ean)C(arroll): "Dark" is a euphemism -- it means not only that the stuff is completely invisible, but that it isn't anything ever seen in a laboratory here on Earth. Clearly, we'd rather not have to invoke such stuff. Nevertheless, the data have forced us to believe that ordinary matter is only about 5% of the universe; another 25% is "dark matter," and the remaining 70% is "dark energy."
So, per a physicist who has spent a lifetime puzzling at this, we are able to perceive -- unaided -- about 5% of the universe if it is close enough for us to notice. We infer the existence of the the other 95% because that is -- currently -- the only way we can explain what our devices tell us.
Of that 5% that we can perceive with our senses, more than 90% is filtered out by our conscious minds as uninteresting noise. If we paid attention all the time to everything we can sense we could never focus on what is most important -- at the moment -- for our continued existence and well-being.

Still we proclaim ourselves masters of the universe. Knowers of the true path. And free to sneer and poke fun at all rival claimants.

Still we claim dominion.

Thank god for the first amendment.

And the wit to understand that, just because somebody said it, doesn't mean I have to believe it.


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

1 comment:

  1. That made me feel bad about disagreeing with other people at all, for a couple of seconds. Which was nice.

    Afterwards, I thought about the relationship of this discussion to the wider one about politically-motivated scientists -- which are generally understood to comprise all scientists who are not on one's particular side on any given topic.

    On global warming, evolution, and other subjects on which my knowledge hovers between diddley and squat, I tend to go with the experts until a compelling counterargument is made that I can understand. I try to reserve enough space in my mind for doubt that, if a fragment of contradictory evidence of suitable gauge flies at my brain, it may enter.

    You would never know this to hear me rail at yahoo anti-evolutionaries, but there's more than my natural belligerence to explain it. Most such discussions in such forums as we frequent are conducted by people who are not so interested in science, and more interested in promulgating a world view. Thus global warming becomes a big game of Who Do You Trust. My team likes the idea of a conspiracy of know-nothings contradicting stark fact to keep voters bamboozled. The other side is more than willing to accomodate this fantasy.

    Or maybe they started it first. I don't remember.

    Your post is not about global warming, but (I think) about our unmindfulness of our own ignorance. I believe that most people are very well aware of their own ignorance, but some of us hide it well. Maybe it has to do with wanting to have something to offer. I know I hate to sit in the corner saying it's all beyond me even when it is.

    This makes me a buffoon at times (maybe all the time), but it gives me something to do, and every so often I even learn something. I'll bet some of Digby's commenters thought again about some of their preconceptions in the course of the discussions -- but then they're a pretty bright group, not like those morons I'm always talking about.

    Conversation among bright folk who are willing to admit they don't know everything can be useful, and we may not see the accomplishment settled on the field of play, but in the deepening wisdom of the participants. Whether that will eventually throw some light on the 98+% of everything that is currently insuperable darkness and mystery, I don't know. As I said, I'm not much on science.