Friday, May 30, 2008

O gullible for spacious lies!

Do you take your local paper?

Check the index; I'll bet it has an "Ancient Superstitious B.S." section. Probably right next to the comics and Dear Abby. Find it yet? In yesterday's Indy Star it was on page E3: The Horoscope.

Oddly, the newspaper no longer pays money for someone to read a sheep's liver every day, nor do they devote column inches to the shapes of flocks of birds or the number of two-headed calves born in the state, and we would rightfully laugh in their faces if they did, yet for some reason it makes perfect sense to print a quickie advice column for the gullible based on the position of certain heavenly bodies when they were born.

Some folks try to tart it up in scientific trappings; an attempt to draw a veil of respectability over something that is really naught but a vestige of primitive beliefs in auguries and auspices. "It's gravity!" they say "The planets and stars exerted gravitational effects on you when you were born and they do to this day." Try and explain to them that, thanks to the magic of the inverse square law, if they wanted to cast their horoscope for the day then they should be charting the exact position of their mom, the table, and the attending physician that delivered them and not the planet Jupiter, and you get a blank stare.

The horoscopes themselves have to be read to be believed. Let's check mine in the Star from yesterday:
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Ask for the terms of a pending financial agreement in writing.
Well. Good advice, no? All you Geminis and Capricorns can forget about the contracts; y'all just go on a handshake. Me, I need to get stuff in writing. I have to wonder, though, if that's just for yesterday. Do I need to have stuff written down today, too? What about next week? Everybody else's horoscope for the day is equally vague or else just plain good sense.

At the top of the column, in tiny print, it says "This column is for entertainment only" which is good, because I can't see it being useful for much else except taking up space that could be used for ads or editorial content or lining cat boxes. I'll tell you this, though: Watch what happens if they cut that "entertainment" column; imagine the howls of protest when Edna can't find out if "Haste makes waste in affairs of the heart," or George doesn't know if he should "Find more effective ways to communicate with your boss." And we let these people vote. Hell, sometimes we elect them President and give them the keys to the bombs. Kinda makes you stop and think for a moment, doesn't it?




Anyhow, that's my spin on astrology.

Better stuff can be found at Ambulance Driver, Atomic Nerds, Better and Better, the Lawdog Files, and the Munchkin Wrangler.

17 comments:

Blackwing1 said...

We get our advice from the little pieces of paper inside the fortune cookies from our local Chinese take-out place...MUCH more accurate than horoscopes.

One of Heinlein's little tests for intellectual capacity was to ask someone how they viewed astrology.

I hope that the people who write those columns have a very hard time looking in the mirror, knowing that they're just another variety of con-men.

Anonymous said...

A group I eat out with has the practice of reading fortune cookies aloud, appending the phrase "between the sheets." That makes them more interesting. Two actual examples:

Promise only what you can deliver between the sheets.

Love is on its way between the sheets.

Tam said...

And here I thought it was "...in bed."

the pawnbroker said...

or:

"oh gullible for specious skies"

very nice writing...

jtc

staghounds said...

Or as XKCD would have it, "except in bed".

At least the horoscope is honestly labeled.

It's not just in fortune telling that the need to believe meets the need to make a nice4 living.

jimbob86 said...

........... so.......... Your birthday is an annual "Dawning of an Age of an Aquarius"?????

Rob K said...

Drat! Staghounds beat me to it.

At first, I thought you were going for the religion section...

Steve Skubinna said...

My question about astrology is, what sign are all of the assholes born under? Because if you read the descriptions, everybody is a good person. Even people's faults are more or less positive attributes - "Your biggest fault is that you are too generous."

We all know assholes, and none of the zodiacal signs cover any of them. Therefore, there must be a secret, or hidden 13th sign for them.

Until the astrologers come clean about the assholes I'm going to have to withhold judgement on the efficacy of their science.

Chas S. Clifton said...

The people I know who follow astrology don't say anything about planetary gravity--or unseen rays or anything like that.

The usual metaphor is "hands of a clock" -- the planetary motions are merely indicators about some sort of cycle that affects human and events.

It's the same human-centered-cosmos thinking that I tried to describe when I blogged recently about "voodoo botany".

Nathan Brindle said...

They got less screaming when they took the daily prayer off the front page than they would if they took out the horrorscope.

Yes, I spelled that correctly.

Don Meaker said...

Tullius Cicero asked "Were all 20,000 men who died at Cannae born on the same day?"

Q.E.D.

Johnny said...

Some of the stuff that is palmed off on us as science nowadays isn't that much different in character from entrail readings or astrology, especially after transmission by a journalist.

D.W. Drang said...

...thanks to the magic of the inverse square law, if they wanted to cast their horoscope for the day then they should be charting the exact position of their mom, the table, and the attending physician that delivered them and not the planet Jupiter...
Scary. I have used (attempted) the same explanation, almost word-for-word...

Rogue Medic said...

Perhaps we should ask researchers for their views on astrology and other superstitions. That way we may have some insight into the types of bias they are likely to introduce into their "science."

So much research has major flaws. Flaws that should not be considered acceptable in high school, but when the "investigators" are doctors, the flaws seem to be overlooked.

Justin said...

I would just like to note that the white space between "doesn't it..." and "Anyhow, that's my take.." is possibly the most brilliant part of a fantastically dead-on blog entry.

Divemedic said...

http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=astrology

Sigivald said...

The real reasons they don't pay anyone to practice haruspicy are twofold:

1) Animal rights whiners complain

2) Since the fall of Rome, nobody's known how.