Thursday, February 15, 2007

Intelligent Design

I've been visiting a couple of ID-related sites recently, largely looking for ammunition, should I ever need it. Knowing the kind of argument I am likely to encounter will mean that I can have my (infinitely more convincing and logical) counter-arguments primed and ready.

Now, I don't expect to meet many ID proponents in the UK, and the ones who are around tend to know to keep their mouths shut, thankfully, else face the mockery of Al and Sandra (who are sometimes mispronounces as "all" and "sundry", the latter being what Italians do to tomatoes).

Indeed, I was highly amused to happen upon this UK site in my virtual perambulations.

One of the things that comes up time and time again in discussions of ID is this classic:

"It's worth bearing in mind that the theory of evolution is only a theory!"

To my mind, this statement betrays a profound ignorance of the scientific method. So much so, that if someone were to say this in an argument, I would probably end the conversation, because I would know right away that any further effort would be a waste of time.

On a related note, Lovely Husband™ was a bit mortified a few months ago when we were out for dinner with one of his then colleagues and I took someone to task about astrology. She described having gone for a reading, and how incredibly accurate it was, and how detailed and specific. And she said that astrology is a science. I couldn't stop myself. I immediately said, "No it isn't." I would have gone on to explain why, but I was getting "cool it, big man" vibes from Lovely Husband™, so I had to stop there.

But how can anyone think that there is anything scientific about astrology? If the location of celestial bodies at the time of your birth have any bearing on your personality, then why is it that astronomical discoveries made over the last few centuries have not invalidated the original methods of calculating astrological charts? As any astronomer will tell you, the ecliptic now passes through 13 signs of the zodiac. So why don't we have Ophiuchus in the Daily Mirror's Star Signs page?

And if what is important is the system by which astrological charts are created, rather than how they match up with the position of celestial bodies, why is it called astrology at all? The system was created on the basis that the stars could be used to foretell the future. Some astrologers, such as Russell Grant, aruge that the system works even if it doesn't match up to where there stars are now. That's absurd. That's like saying that if you put one brick on top of another brick, and then take the first brick away, the second brick will stay where it is.

The other things that really gets me about astrology is how it is never wrong. If your personality matches the stereotype for your sun sign, then stop right there. If it doesn't match, then you can start looking at various combinations of where your moon, your Venus, your Mars, etc., etc., in every possible combination so that it will always be possible to get a match.

I was delighted to read, in Derren Brown's book, the entire text of a personality profile that he used in one of his TV shows. He did some hokey thing about drawing around your hand and writing your date of birth inside it, and then used this information to create detailed personality charts. Most of the participants (in three countries - he did this a few times) were amazed at how accurate their profile was. It was only when he got them to swap with other participants that they realised that everyone - even those who swore it was really detailed, containing very specific, personal stuff that only they could know about - everyone had been given exactly the same reading.

9 comments:

Tickersoid said...

Intelligent designr's are just a bunch of comedians.

I know this, I read it in the stars.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Ludicrous!

Not your post, of course. Astrology.

Everyone knows logs come from trees, not space.

DanProject76 said...

Next you'll be telling us that Derek Acorah is not a real psychic!

Meh!

:-)

Intelligent Design? Oh the irony!

Al said...

The personality profile is an expanded version of the Forer effect: http://www.skepdic.com/forer.html

I'd actually like to go along to a psychic to experience it for myself and try to spot 'how they do it'. It might spoil the experience though, a bit like watching Qenny doing a trick, I'm so busy trying to spot the sleight of hand that I lose the overall wow factor.

Reluctant Nomad said...

While you were ranting about ludicrous things, you should have got on to the subject of homeopathy! Fuck, talk about ridiculous!!

David Weeks said...

"So much so, that if someone were to say this in an argument, I would probably end the conversation, . . ."

Thereby preventing the discussion from evolving?

You have to give evolution a chance to, er . . . evolve? Even for an atavistic intellectual as the one you cite.

David Weeks said...

Derren Brown's book . .
Technical term, as you know, for this is: A Cold Reading.

I have always wondered, how it is that all those people on the planet, born at the same time, will share precisely the same horoscope. Except that they wouldn't because of variations in time resulting from GMT ~ they would have to be born on the same Meridian. I think the hotels (Meridian) are a far more interesting phenomenon than astrology which maybe 'out of this world' ~ but should stay there.

Qenny said...

al - the difference is that I, and my fellow magicians, are honest frauds, so it's best to sit back, relax, and allow yourself to be entertained. So-called psychics are genuine frauds, so it's worth doing whatever it takes to expose their charlatanism for what it is.

nomad: I completely agree! It's almost as much bollocks as astronomy, but not quite.

david: I was amused when I moved down under to note that the same system applies despite the fact that much of it is predicated on a northern hemisphere perspective (signs tied to seasons, etc.)

ChrisNI said...

Yes I have to say I am sceptical about astrology but then Virgo is a sceptical sign.