What's the most distressing trend in America? Crime? Drugs?
Beavis and Butthead? In my book, it's the decline of skepticism. Not
that I think a single web page can change anything, but I'm morally
bound to try anyway. So let me try and hold up a candle of reason.
On this page, I'll try to point out the fundamental silliness behind
astrology, UFO abductions, and
past lives. If you have comments, email me.
Astrology: My Magic Eight Ball gives me
advice that's every bit as good as the astrology column in the paper.
You'd think this would be enough to convince anyone that astrology is
hokum, but, sadly enough, it isn't. So let's take a look at a few
- The constellations of the zodiac are a completely man-made
convention. In fact, they're specific to western culture. If
astrology makes any sense, then it's only because western culture is
so superior to other cultures that only the west could figure
out...well, you get my point.
- Of the time the sun supposedly spends in Scorpio (that's Scorpius,
by the way, but astrologers can't be relied on to speak astronomy
correctly anyway, I suppose), fully 75% of the time it is actually in
the constellation Ophiuchus. Of course, the constellations are
man-made conventions, so I suppose this doesn't matter (but if it
doesn't matter, what does it say about the fundamental validity of
astrology, which relies on which of these man-made objects the sun is
- I say "in" in quotes, because most of the time
astrologers claim the sun is "in" Aries (for example), it is
not in Aries! Right now, there are only 106 days of the year when the
sun is "in" a constellation in an astrological sense at the
same time it is "in" the constellation in the real sense.
- Actually, points 1 through 3 above are a little unfair, since
astrologers are somewhat cannier than politicians. They never say the
sun is in a constellation, but say that it is in a nebulous
"sign", which has no correspondence to anything you can
point to in the sky: the signs, like the constellations, are purely
man-made conventions. Specifically, European man-made conventions.
Aliens: I'm not talking UFOs. As Arthur
C. Clarke once noted, if you've never seen a UFO, you don't look at
the sky very much. But alien spaceships?
- Does the U.S. military know about aliens? If they did, we the
taxpayers would be the first to know. It would go something along the
following lines: "Mr. President, there are aliens ready to invade
the Earth. Give us $200 billion dollars to perfect a weapons system
that will give us a fighting chance."
- (What, they're hiding the fact that they can't defend against
aliens? Folks, when has the military ever said "well, we
can't defend against it, so don't give us money"? From the
missile gap to Star Wars, the basic military response to any
threat, real or otherwise, has been "We can defend against it
if...", the "if" usually involving an expensive
- Right now the technology exists to eavesdrop on just about anyone
without their knowing it. Neat devices like synthetic aperture radar
and image enhancement and thermal imaging are nearly at the point
where you could look over the shoulders of a guy reading the newspaper
and see who won the Dodgers-Red Sox game. If aliens existed with the
technology to cross the light years that separate us from even the
nearest star, and those aliens had some interest in human
beings, doesn't it seem reasonable to believe they could be at least
was unobtrusive as, say, the FBI, NSA, or CIA?
- As for those people who claim, under hypnosis, to remember being
abducted by aliens...read on.
Regression into past lives: So, under
regression "before" birth someone claims they were Julius
Caesar in a previous life.
- Too bad Patton's already claimed to be Julius Caesar; maybe you
two got to time share Gaius? Why is it that no one ever regresses and
says "Yeah, I was a dirt poor peasant who died at 23 from
overwork." Everyone I've seen who's claimed to have regressed to
a past life claims to be someone famous. Do the math: demographers
estimate that perhaps a hundred billion people have been born, lived,
and died in the time since human beings came into existence. Of those
hundred billion, I think we're being generous if we claim to know
anything about more than a million of them, so the odds should be at
least a hundred thousand to one that you were somebody famous in a
- (Hmmm...maybe skeptics like me only get one life, so of course
we're never anyone famous, while believers get a few million lives, so
of course they have a good chance of being someone famous. The fact
that the same people are being recycled again and again could explain
a lot about history...)
- As any reputable psychologist will tell you, a hypnotic state is
one where you are very open to suggestions. As any statistician will
tell you, millions of man-hours are spent designing survey questions
that are not suggestive, and even then they often fail.
- (What do I mean by this? Pick 100 adults at random. Ask 50 of
them, "You like salads, don't you?" Ask the other 50,
"Do you like salads?" The first group is just about
guaranteed (all other things being equal) to have a higher ratio of
"Yes" answers. Now if fully conscious, non-hypnotized
adults will modify their answer based on what they perceive the
questioner's desired response to be, how will a hypnotized,
suggestible adult behave?)
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