# Astrology, Barnum, and me

Oh dear, oh dear. Two of my favorite news sources – you know, those that we usually rely on for accurate reporting – seem to have done credulous puff pieces on an astrologer. More to the point, they took this kind of nonsense seriously. For example, Tonya Mosley on NPR asked the astrologer, Chani Nicholas, whether astrology was a pseudoscience. Her reply:

Astrology comes out of scientific roots and because we are studying the movements of planetary bodies over time and coming up with facts about them, it’s not to say that there is nothing scientific about astrology, but, and also, obviously it’s speaking a symbolic language. And so it’s not necessarily quantifiable in the same way as we would study other things. And then we have to get into the conversation about what is science and empirical knowledge? What are we looking at and what are our biases? So, people can call it whatever they want.

There was no follow-up to this gobbledygook; since I may call it whatever I want, I will call it bullshit. Astrology, sort of, came out of scientific roots, but it evolved into astronomy and is today no more scientific than alchemy, which no one would consider scientific even though it evolved into chemistry. When I last looked at the NPR website, the comments were uniformly negative, some very much so.

The Times, if possible, wrote an even puffier piece. Here, in the interest of giving equal time, a sample:

I’ve heard two main criticisms of astrology: that it’s fake and that it’s narcissistic. Many things are both, but astrology seems to bear the brunt of all this ire. A friend of mine always says that “astrology is fake until it’s real” — that is, until it confirms a presupposition or dovetails with a future outcome. (Yes, she’s a Gemini.)

Fake “until it confirms a presupposition or dovetails with a future outcome”? Almost a definition of confirmation bias.

PT Barnum is supposed to have said that there is a sucker born every minute. Considering how many more people there are today, it is probably worse than that. Anyway, herewith, below the fold, as a public service, something I wrote concerning astrology around 20 years ago (I cribbed it from an old Word Perfect file, so it may not be precisely the same as what is in the link. I have not linked the references, but you may find them in the linked book).

# Ken Ham's Christmas Letter

William Trollinger at the blog Righting America has posted a draft of a letter that he suggests Ken Ham send to the Williamstown City Council. Herewith 3 samples. We have omitted the links, inasmuch as you may read the entire letter yourself.

… I [that is, Ken Ham] have failed to adequately express my gratitude for all the gifts you gave to the Ark. My bad! Our big boat does not get built without you floating $62m in high-risk municipal bonds (I will NOT call them junk bonds — they are not junk!) in our behalf. But this is not all. There’s the gift of$175,000 from Grant County. There’s the sale of 100 acres to us for only $1. It goes on and on — so many gifts from government! Thank you, thank you, thank you! And the repayment scheme – wow! Pure genius: over the next 30 years, 75% of what we would have had to pay in property taxes will instead go to paying off our loan, It doesn’t get much sweeter than that – thank you so much! Of course, much of that lost property tax revenue would have gone to local schools. But let’s face it, that’s no great loss for the children of Williamstown. Public schools are havens of atheism! … And also, Speaking of your remarkable generosity, I have to bring up what could be – I hope not! – a touchy subject. And that is the 2013 Ark Encounter Feasibility Report. You remember, the report we provided you as you were considering whether or not to float the$62m worth of bonds for our big boat project. I know that in our report we stated that our first year attendance would be between 1.2 and 2 million, with the likelihood that it would be closer to 2 million. More than this, the report asserted that there would be 4% attendance growth annually. More than this – and this is where the we got crazily optimistic – the report claims that there will be 10% annual growth after years 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10.

According to our formula, our projected minimum attendance for the Ark’s year #4 (the year we are now in) was 1,427,712. Whups!! In 2018 our attendance was 827,591; in 2019 our attendance through November is 859,319. Maybe we will get to 900,000. That’s better, but it is a long way from 1.4 million….

And finally,

Trust me, I am not blaming you for believing what we said – that’s an easy mistake to make! In fact, let’s just forget what we said in the feasibility report! Let’s just let bygones be bygones! Merry Christmas from all of us here at Ark Encounter. And remember, for a paltry \$48 you can visit the Ark and learn why God found it necessary to drown twenty billion people. It’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit!

Incidentally, remind us never to trust anyone who says, “Trust me.”

# Agalychnis callidryas

Photograph by Brian Hooker.