Saturday, August 27, 2005

NY Times and astrology

The recent hubub about the NY Times' coverage of the Intelligent Design 'controversy' made me particularly sensitive to the article I skimmed briefly this morning around 4am after I got home from the Vid (it is the last weekend before classes start, clearly the summer has to be sealed off with an appropriate drunken bender).

Anyway, the article is about Astrology and how the discovery of a new planet might affect astrologer's work. If PZ Myers over at Pharyngula (not to mention everybody else who has a blog except me) was upset about the Times' coverage of the ID 'debate' and how it made the ID folks seem like credible scientists, this Astrology article ought to get them even more riled up.

The vast majority of the article is pretty much a summary of how Astrologers are going to handle the new discovery and how many people believe in horoscopes:

"On the contrary, astrologers seem to have reached an unspoken consensus to take a wait-and-see approach. Wait and see if there is a 10th planet. Then wait and observe its influence on human life. Astrologers have been searching the sky for centuries for clues to how the positions of stars and planets could affect life on Earth. Their celestial observations intrigued Chaucer, Shakespeare and even Galileo. The profession still thrives, supported in no small part it seems by people who say they do not really believe in it, as evidenced by the enormous popularity of horoscopes in magazines, newspapers and on the Web. Last year America Online's most popular search term was 'horoscope.'

A Gallup Poll telephone survey conducted in June found that 25 percent of Americans believe that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives."

"Leigh Oswald, an astrologer in London, said unknown forces may determine when scientists discover new planets. 'A planet is discovered when it's appropriate for humanity to understand it,' she said. 'In other words, when we are ready for it.'"

Yes, the article assumes a dismissive tone at times, particularly when they are dealing with what one of the Astronomer who discovered the planet thinks about the whole thing.

BUT, the articles about ID were also dismissive when they were dealing with the Evolutionary Biologist's take on ID. In other words, this article can be interpreted as supporting Astrology.

Now perhaps Astrology is so widely known to be pseudoscience and simply for entertainment purposes that everyone knows that this article is really just covering an entertainment industry or whatever. I mean, it is in the 'Fashion' section. But I really didn't get that impression from reading the article. I got the impression that the reporter was sincerely concerned with getting the Astrologer's side of the story.

If this is true, the ID debate is but one small symptom of a larger disease.

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