“THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE has been the discovery of human ignorance.” Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell. “OUR IGNORANCE, OF COURSE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US, AND ALWAYS WILL BE. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species.” Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Astrology Debunking 101

Carl Sagan complained that of the ~1,500 daily newspapers in the U.S., only 31 have weekly science sections. Yet EVERY daily newspaper offers a daily horoscope.

There are five schools of astrology: Egyptian, Chinese, Tibetan, Hindu and Western Astrology. What if there were 5 schools of biology, 5 schools of anatomy & physiology, 5 schools of physics? Which particular school of physical science would you trust? Which surgeon would you allow to operate on you---the doctor who believed in and practiced Hindu surgical procedures, or Egyptian?

Yes, there is a grain of truth in astrology: INTERDEPENDENCE. Related to chaos theory: a butterfly farts in Beijing and one hundred zillion multiplier effects cause a rainstorm in Tallahassee.

Interdependence, YES. But astrology?

How accurate were astrological charts before...

1781 and the discovery of Uranus?
1846 and the discovery of Neptune?
1930: and the discovery of Pluto?
2003: and the discovery of Charon (twice the size of Pluto)?
2005: and the discovery of Quaoar (½ size of Pluto)?

Here is my UNIVERSAL Astrological Reading. It applies to virtually all human beings. Read it carefully and see if the description fits you:

You are a mostly self-confident character, yet sometimes you feel drastically unsure of yourself. With the help of your circle of friends you feel, for the most part, self-sufficient and more or less complete emotionally, yet at certain moments you can get so lonely and haunted with an undefined longing that it surprises you—and kind of scares you.

You’ve got a few little unexplained quirks or habits that are mostly just amusing to you and those around you, although once in a while your little hang-ups or idiosyncrasies may start to bug others—or especially annoy yourself. That’s no big deal. But on the other hand, every now and then, a REALLY perverse thought or feeling runs through your mind that you are damned glad no one else can detect!

In general, you do accept and appreciate yourself. You deem yourself to be an imperfect but basically good person—if people took the time to know you, they’d like you. Yet in certain moments, it can feel as if you are own worst enemy!—or that in some weird way you are both “who you want to be” and the “opposite” of who you want to be! But in spite of such self-conflict and the occasional sense of struggling with yourself, you truly believe you have a remarkable potential for happiness, love, and success—maybe even greatness of some kind.

All-in-all, you consider yourself “above average” in intelligence, talent, and abilities. If you were to compare yourself to 100 Americans your age, chosen at random, you would rank yourself in the top 25 percent on most scales: looks, smarts, personality, sense of humor, likability, creativity, loyalty to friends, and so forth. In other words, you regard yourself (quite honestly, you believe), as actually superior to most of the people you know and meet. (If you are "above average" and in the top 25 percentile, then it follows that you are superior to most humans.)

Is this YOU?

The Pre = Trans Fallacy

Let's take a look at the Pre = Trans Fallacy (as exposited by the philosopher Ken Wilber):

The Pre = Trans Fallacy is the belief that to return to a state BEFORE the mind (pre-rational) is the same as advancing to a state BEYOND the mind (trans-rational).

This false idea is universal among the "New Age" philosophies and pseudo-sciences. It operates like this this: 

1) The rational mind is limited, therefore, it cannot grasp truth.
2) Therefore, the rational mind is to be distrusted and discarded.
3) Therefore, the PRE-rational (pre-verbal, "magical thinking") state of a little child is superior to the rational.
4) So let’s all return to our childhood pre-rationality (a mind so open, one’s brains spill out in one’s lap)!

The only problem is, you CAN'T go back to the pre-rational. You simply end up with the irrational, the immature stuff of the superstition of the ages.

The genuine way to deal with the limits of the rational mind is to move forward, evolve BEYOND it and thereby experience the trans-rational—without losing the ability to discriminate, to use knowledge and reason, to think critically.