I have been sorting through some old books and came across a volume called The Modern Text-Book of Astrology, by Margaret E Hone. I bought the book years ago when I became interested in the possibility of there being some truth in astrology, that idea having been mooted in another book, Supernature, by Lyall Watson. He reported a number of investigations apparently proving, by statistical analysis, that the position of the planets, notably Mars, at the moment of birth affects the personality and abilities of the infant.
Astrology was practiced by Galileo, Kepler and others, and it’s likely that modern astronomy owes as much to astrology as it does to the mapping of the stars and planets for navigational purposes.
It is interesting to quote a passage from the introduction of Hone’s book:
The Witchcraft Act of 1735 and the Vagrancy Act of 1829 include those who practice astrology as ‘charlatans, rogues and vagabonds’, and imply that ‘fortune telling’ is illegal…Until these acts are altered, the astrologer is advised to preface all his remarks with a statement which shows that he realises the position, and conforms with the law of his country in making it plain that he is not dogmatically stating that the events will happen, but that, from his point of view, the likelihood is that tendencies of a certain nature may bring about results of that nature.
A most convenient disclaimer. Who, after all, can argue with an act of Parliament even if it is over 200 years old.
A Google search shows that astrology is alive and kicking, and continues to provide a large number of people with a living. This is surprising considering that it has been thoroughly discredited as pseudoscience, with no more correlation with reality than would be expected from pure chance – see, for example, A double-blind test of astrology, Shawn Carlson, Nature, Vol 318, 5 December 1985.
Naturally, astrologers reject these tests, citing bias and arguing with the statistics. In any case, why would they concede that their ‘science’ is nonsense, when they have customers queuing up to purchase expensive horoscopes?
So astrology remains a refuge for the gullible and the weak-minded. I was tempted to burn Hone’s book for the hokum it is, but book-burning is the province of Nazism. I will, therefore, keep it as a reminder that there are few boundaries to human foolishness. I am tempted though to enquire of my MP whether the two acts of Parliament referenced above remain, and if so, to insist that the letter of the law be rigorously enforced.
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Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs