2016: the best of times, the worst of times

2016-01-04 07:10

At the beginning of every New Year, Astrology fights back, assaulting both reason and common sense.

According to this backward ancient belief system, there are a gifted few humans, called astrologers, who can foresee and predict the future.

Now, the science of astronomy (whose origins is ironically linked to astrology) shows that the positions of the sun, moon and other celestial bodies do predict changes in the Earth’s seasons and tides.

However, only astrology continues to claim that the patterns and movements of these celestial bodies also predict changes in our personal life. Indeed, astrologers claim that one’s personality and destiny is predetermined by the signs of the zodiac.

These claims should make one with even a basic education sceptical, but many who secretly wish they are the centre of the universe, terrified by the uncertainty of their future, and unwilling to take ownership of their decisions, continue to seek the counsel of astrologers.

And belief in astrology is not limited to the less educated. You will find such credulity among royalty, presidents, CEOs, musicians, actors, sport stars, media personalities, academics, stockbrokers, work colleagues, family, and some of your closest friends. Proof again that people with only double digit IQ’s have always been able to enter every sphere of society.

Of course, this says a lot about the scale of stupidity in society, but I would also argue that it says even more about the scale of stupidity in an education system that blatantly fails to teach the public how to evaluate extraordinary claims. Like religious institutions – our education system is in the business of manufacturing sheep.

Now astrologers cannot explain how celestial bodies influence our personal lives without influencing physical forces such as gravity. They lack consensus on how planetary patterns and movements should be interpreted and the specific personality traits or events they cause. Astrologers cannot explain why people belonging to the same zodiac sign have different personalities and destinies. For example, they cannot explain why people with different personalities have the same careers – Consider obvious differences in personality traits of politicians such as Mandela, De Klerk, Zille, Zuma, and Malema.

They cannot tell us how the discoveries of new celestial bodies influence their predictions. They cannot explain why their prognostications are always so vague and general and seem to apply to most people. They are unable to predict something precise, like the Protea's next test win, the next Lotto numbers or the Durban July winner.

They resist the idea that their clients who selectively favour information that seems to match their vague pronouncements about the future are bias. Furthermore, credible experiments have failed to provide evidence that astrology works.

And we should not excuse astrology as harmless fun and entertainment. Astrologers earn a good living out of conning the ignorant and gullible by offering erroneous and sometimes dangerous advice.

What astrology does reveal is that human progress coincides with human backwardness. This irresolvable dialectical tension is the true nature of social life – progressive belief systems in tension with backward belief systems. Barbarism and civilisation intertwined. Simply put, many people can be incredibly stupid on the one hand and smart on the other.

But if one is to insist, can we at least make some rough predictions for this New Year?

For that we must turn to the timeless words of Charles Dickens, who wrote: ‘It (will be) the best of times, it (will be) the worst of times, it (will be) the age of wisdom, it (will be) the age of foolishness, it (will be) the epoch of belief, it (will be) the epoch of incredulity, it (will be) the season of light, it (will be) the season of darkness, it (will be) the spring of hope, it (will be) the winter of despair’

So expect more enduring contradictions in 2016 and increasing bullshit duly accepted by gullible citizens, astrology being just one among a number of cons, the municipal elections being another, etc ....

Perhaps we need to lower our expectations of others and focus on those aspects of our lives we control, learn to enjoy our front row seat to the human circus in South Africa, and who knows, we may just about experience a happy New Year!

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