Philosophy and Skepticism
BRENT SILBY Unlimited (UPT)
Featuring Carl Sagan on Astrology From Cosmos Episode 2
Astrology and Fortune Telling
* What is Astrology? A way to tell a person¶s future by referring to position of planets and stars.
Where did Astrology come from? It is an ancient belief system, which originated 4000 years ago. It has not changed much in 4000 years.
Something to think about« how much 4000 year old knowledge do we take seriously today?
Should we believe in Astrology? Or should we be skeptical? Surely its harmless, even if it doesn¶t really work. * Its dangerous. U.S presidents have been known to consult astrologers before going to war. * This means the decision to go to war is put in the hands of an astrologer--who could be a fraud. Shouldn¶t people decide for themselves how to live their lives, instead of leaving it up to ³fate´?
Why do people believe in Astrology? People need to have a reason for why things happen. Astrology provides simple reasons for events. Astrologers usually tell people what they want to hear
But wait ! Half the time it doesn¶t work. Why do people still believe? Flaw in human reasoning. People tend to look for proof to confirm beliefs, rather than trying to find evidence against them. If an Astrological prediction works once, then that¶s enough. People forget about the hundreds of times that it doesn¶t work.
What evidence could we use to show Astrology and Fortune telling does not work? If a fortune teller tells you that you will be killed by a truck when you cross the street tomorrow, what could you do to prove them wrong? Simple ! Stay at home all day. Do not leave the house. The fortune teller will say that they had told you a possible future, and that it didn¶t occur. But what¶s the use of that? Anyone can do that ! I can imagine possible futures every time I think about crossing the street when a truck is coming.
If this is all Astrology and Fortune tellers can offer, then what¶s the point in listening to them. We need facts, not possibilities. Imagine if scientists told you that gravity only worked sometimes. It wouldn¶t be much of a theory.
Astrologers cannot explain how it works. If astrologers want their field to be considered reliable, then they need to offer some explanation for how it works. It¶s not enough to say its ³magic´, ³mystical´, or ³unexplainable´. No-one can take that seriously. We need a mechanism that we can examine and understand.
How do you think an Astrologer could respond to this? By saying that many scientific theories could not be explained in the past. E.g. Plate tectonics was a theory that was around a long time before anyone could propose a mechanism for how it works.
But the difference is that plate tectonics described events consistently. It always worked, so there was a definite possibility of a mechanism. Astrology is inconsistent and doesn¶t always work.
A problem for astrology« Planets and stars are so far away that their gravitational fields have virtually no influence on us. A doctor who delivers a baby has more of a gravitational influence on a newborn than stars or planets.
Another problem« If stars and planets affect living creatures on Earth, then surely a prediction for Capricorn would be the same for all creatures born in December--including animals ! This does not seem to be the case.
In fact, people born under the same star signs often lead vastly different lives. They even die at totally different times.
Yet another problem« What is so important about the time of birth. Surely astrological star signs should affect people at the moment of conception !
But wait! There¶s more« Astrology places huge importance on constellations. But these are simply shapes that people can draw by connecting stars. Without people to draw shapes, there would be no constellations.
Also, it is accidental that people chose to draw the shapes that they did. They could have connected the stars in numerous ways to come up with totally different shapes. Its all a human invention !
And another problem« If Astrology is accurate and reliable. Then how could it have operated before people had discovered all 9 planets in the solar system. Surely the predictions would have been totally different. It was science that discovered those planets, not astrology.
Furthermore, why is it that different websites and newspapers don¶t agree on their predictions? Surely each prediction for Pisces for today should be the same. But they are not.
Psychics People visit psychics to find out about their future. Often the psychic tells them about things currently going on in their life, for example: ³You are making extensions to your house´ This makes the client trust the psychic, and from there the psychic can make broad, ambiguous predictions about the future. But how does the psychic know about the person¶s life? Masters of reading body language and picking up on clues They look at the person and take a few calculated guesses« For example, a married woman in mid 40s probably owns a house. They test this. If they get a hit, they continue. If they miss, they shift to another line of probing.
Psychics Can we test this? Yes! 1. Put the psychic in another room She will complain that the wall interferes with her connection 2. Sit in front of the blindfolded psychic and say nothing. If she is psychic, then she won¶t need you to talk. She will complain that you do not have an open mind 3. Visit the psychic with the intention of deceiving her. Pretend you are someone else, and respond to her appropriately. If she is genuine, she will know. If not, she will generate all the wrong facts about you.
Psychics What about psychics on programs like ³Sensing Murder´? Remember, ³Sensing Murder´ is entertainment. It is not like the 6 o¶clock news. You never see a psychic on the 6 o¶clock news. If psychics really could solve murders, why are they not featured on the news? Why do police not use them all the time? Perhaps police only use them as a last resort. But why? If it works, why not use it straight away. The fact that they don¶t use it immediately shows that it doesn¶t really work. They want to solve crimes quickly!
Watch Harmony of the Worlds episode of Cosmos Scene selection«Astronomy vs Astrology
Your job« Try to think of ways to either: 1) Prove that Astrology does not work or 2) Prove that Astrology does work. Its your choice.
Powerpoint by BRENT SILBY www.def-logic.com Produced at UPT Christchurch, New Zealand www.unlimited.school.nz