Be starry-eyed no longer

I would like to humbly suggest that the Mountain Xpress drop Rob Brezsny’s syndicated feature, “Freewill Astrology.” Amazingly, nearly every major newspaper in this country still carries a regular astrology feature. Maybe a forward-thinking paper like the Xpress can start to reverse this trend.

Astrology is an ancient belief system based on the concept that human lives are affected by the positions of the stars. Newspaper astrology columns generally consist of vaguely worded advice that can usually be applicable to almost anyone. Astrology has no scientific merit; it is pure superstition.

It would not be too difficult to set up an experiment to scientifically test astrology, examining “lucky” and “unlucky” dates for people who were born at the exact same time, and comparing the result with data from people born at random times. Not surprisingly, I have never heard of this experiment being done.

You may argue that the astrology column is harmless fun. I would counter that encouraging and propagating pseudo-science is not fun; it’s dangerous. President Ronald Reagan reportedly consulted astrologers when making decisions! If that’s not enough to scare you, consider that humans raised in a society where beliefs are commonly accepted without any proof are liable to believe any idea that is persuasively presented to them. For example, pseudo-science was once used to justify the belief that dark-skinned people are inferior to light-skinned people. Sadly, that effort was all too successful, causing untold misery. Real science reveals [that] the races of humans are pretty much genetically identical.

I used to think science was dull and boring, but real science is way more amazing, entertaining and mind-blowing than pseudo-science. The popularity of recent books by scientists like Richard Dawkins, Michael Pollan and Jared Diamond make this clear. Maybe we could replace the astrology column with an article by one of these guys. I would also be fine with fiction, fantasy or poetry—just as long as it doesn’t pretend to be science.

– Jeff Hersk

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14 thoughts on “Be starry-eyed no longer

  1. Star-eyed Reader

    I happen to like the astrology section. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. I look forward to reading it every week. It is usually more accurate than any other paper’s horoscope.

  2. morgana

    You obviously don’t really read the weekly section very closly. If you did, you would realize that it is not a typical weekly newspaper reading, but rather stories and anecdotes that are very reasonable advice. As the above poster stated, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Get off your high horse, deflate your ego, and get over yourself. Who are you to decide what the rest of us should read? I personally can’t stand the Billy Graham Q&A;section, but some people wait each week for it…I’m so sick of people griping about what offends them. Just close your eyes and shut out the world…we’ll gladly pass you by.

  3. curmudgeon

    Wow, Morgana, you seem to have some pent-up angst. I think the writer was just trying to say that “stories and anecdotes” are fine, but should not be printed in a newspaper as if they were truth.

    Maybe the astrology should have a disclaimer like “this is fiction” like the Asheville Disclaimer has one that says “this is satire.” Just so there’s no question.

  4. Alan Ditmore

    Crime declined in ’92 and this was credited to Guliani, but it was actually Roe+18, according to “Freakonomics”

  5. stargazer

    Poor Mr. Hersk, doesn’t he know that newspaper-column-horoscopes are intended purely for entertainment? And not to be confused with an astrological chart drawn on the exact time and place of a person’s birth. It is quite obvious if anything is ancient, it is Mr. Hersk’s belief system, particularly regarding astrology, which would appear to be based on the same fiction and fantasy he enjoys so well. Especially given that only one of the three authors he names is actually a scientist. And, by the way, it was not Ronald Reagan who consulted a professional astrologer, it was his wife, Nancy. Clearly, if anything is scary or dangerous, it is the pretentiousness of someone like Mr. Hersk, which is understandable given the obvious placement of Uranus in his chart.

  6. travelah

    Now Jeff, if a freak city council candidate can dance around a tree in a Pagan ritual, surely a President’s wife can consult who she wishes for her day? How else will astrology believers know what is going on if they can’t read it because a science worshiper has his column instead?

  7. Carrie

    “If that’s not enough to scare you, consider that humans raised in a society where beliefs are commonly accepted without any proof are liable to believe any idea that is persuasively presented to them.”

    The Bible…heaven…hell…Anyone?

  8. Joanna_Marie

    awww man! So what your saying is that I will not be communicating directly with a supernatural being this week? I’ve been trying to channel for the last couple days and I even got my old wiji board out!
    Seriously, I think that the intelligent people of Asheville read the free will astrology knowing that it is harmless fun! Please please please don’t take the fun out of the xpress! I mean, it’s probably someone who had a similar arguement who made the Asheville disclaimer write “a paradody feature” beneath its name! I am not say saying that your an idiot, I understand your point of view and it makes sense (in a way that I completely disagree with :)
    Morons are going to exist whether they read their horoscope or not.

  9. Daniel Carmona

    While I agree that the horoscope must be taken with a grain of salt, to suggest that we are not affected by the movement of celestial bodies is moronic. Ever heard of the tide? We are in fact connected on a very real level to the cosmos and are made of the very same basic “scientific” compounds as the stars and planets. The ancient Greeks, on which much of our society is based, revered the stars as a key to their lives. Yes, we have advanced greatly since those times, but there is at least enough truth in it to base what I believe most intelligent people see as entertainment. It is fun! Relax! Should we also do away with fortune cookies, palm readers, weji boards, and tarot cards. If she doesn’t burn, she must be a witch, right?

  10. truthbetold

    Alas Mr. Hersk forgets that we are in Asheville. And he seems to forget that there is more to life than that which is provable by science. Whew! That’s a pretty narrow view of things. I have been using astrology as a tool in my counseling work for twenty years and Mr. Hersk is seriously mistaken. It is one of the most effective tools imaginable for helping people understand themselves and navigate change. You need to see an astrologer, dude. Long live the Xpress’s astrology column!

  11. Nam Vet

    “I think the writer was just trying to say that ‘stories and anecdotes’ are fine, but should not be printed in a newspaper as if they were truth.”

    Lord, Curmudgeon, if you really believe all you read in newspapers, there is little hope for you. Virtually all newsprint is slanted in some way. Just experiment by reading 2 or 3 different newspapers’ account of the same story. Of course you can’t do that with AP distributed stories, but you can with local coverage. I’ve tried it and found each reporter/editor puts their own slant on the same events. Then you have the “opinion makers” like New York Times who purposely distort and omit in order to serve their agenda.

    Back on thread, I’m with the folks who say live and let live as far as the astrology column goes. Either read it because you like it or skip it if you don’t.

  12. Rob Close

    most astrology sections are trite and deserve to be ignored. brezsny’s are creative, poetic advice – wrapped up in astrology for the masses to accept it – and i enjoy it on that level.
    and my juggling partner next to me here & now has insisted i read his brezsny-horoscope to him soon as i pick up the MX many a-times. he screams “nooo! if nothing else, it makes me smile”
    but if we had a regular astrologer spewing useless, non-poetic trash, i’d totally agree. ditch the banal junk.

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