Astrology: the anti-science acceptable to the educated élite?

Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine if, in the US, a new novel that celebrated creationism was awarded the greatest of all literary prizes, topped the local best seller lists, gained five star reviews in the papers and was recommended to school pupils by their teachers. Typical American idiocy, eh?

Then imagine in the rest of the English-speaking world a new novel that celebrated astrology was awarded… well you don’t have to imagine, because it has already happened with the award of the Man Booker Prize to The Luminaries – a book the plot of which revolves (literally, apparently) around astrology.

Now, you might argue, the fact that a character in the plot, or even the plot itself, focused on astrology is hardly that shocking – this is the world of the imagination after all. But that ignores the fact that the author, Eleanor Catton, noted that it was 28 years since a New Zealander had last won the prize and that this was of astrological significance – because it was the orbital period of Saturn? Frankly, if I was a Booker judge, I’d be tempted to sue over the suggestion that my decision to award the prize was based on something other than rational thought!

It seems no one has batted an eye-lid about the astrological theme. Astrology is the anti-science that our arts degree holding élite find completely acceptable – it’s just a bit of fun, after all, isn’t it?

No, it’s not. It ought to be a matter of national shame that our children know far more about this rubbish than any true cosmology.

In fact my view is that astrology is the “gateway drug” to all sorts of far more pernicious anti-science ideas. It needs to be confronted not tolerated.

As you might have guessed I have no intention of reading Ms Catton’s book. So, maybe I am being unfair – a bit like those prudes of years gone by who denounced Monty Python’s Life Of Brian without ever bothering to watch it. That’s a risk I am taking writing this, I admit. But the evidence I can see suggests Ms Catton takes astrology more than semi-seriously:

Is Catton trying to legitimize astrology for our modern age, perhaps rescue it from newspapers’ back pages?

“I do feel like I have a special fondness for any school of thought that is not fashionable,” she says with a shy laugh. “It’s just kind of a rebellious streak in me, and certainly astrology does not command a great deal of intellectual respect.”

The zodiac, she explains, “is incredibly psychologically complex, I think. As a sequence, it makes a great deal of harmonic sense: You know, the 12 signs from Aries through to Pisces really are a 12-part story, and each sign kind of rejects the principles of the sign that precedes it. And reacts against them, in a funny kind of way.”

As an example, she cites Aries, “which is understood as the objective principle; Taurus, the subjective, which is a reaction against the objective; and then Gemini, which is a kind of synthesis of objective and subjective, and moves freely between them. And so on and so forth, all the way around.

“So, yeah, I think I do find astrology really interesting as a kind of primitive or naive version of psychology, really. Or, like, a psychological schema.”

(From The Globe and Mail – here)

She’s entitled to her view, no matter how plain stupid it makes her look. The Booker Judges aren’t entitled to give it credibility without being open to ridicule though.

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