Saturday, 26 March 2011

Astrology's Utility

I'm a avid non-astrologer. As a means for understanding the world, it's as pseudo-science as one can get - with no plausible mechanism, good reasons for seeing the patterns as artefacts of the mind, and evidentially doesn't describe what its meant to do. Astrology isn't dominant in our culture, but newspapers still carry star signs and there are people who look to the star signs as determining personality. It's total nonsense, and I cannot stress that enough.

Recalling my childhood I remember, however, where astrology did have a utility. It was something that helped form a bond between my brother and aunt, who had close birthdays and shared the same star sign. She got him a blanket with a lion that he really loved as well as a stuffed toy. His star sign, in other words, was used to enrich his childhood.

This is just one case where astrology has had a positive influence on the world. Would they have bonded over other things? Perhaps, but because of the belief in astrology it seems that there was this bond in particular. As Douglas Adams put it, it's people thinking about people.

I can recognise that utility without supposing that astrology is true. I can also recognise that positive outcomes like this exist while maintaining that astrology is harmful nonsense. Because it's not these experiences that make astrology harmful, but that these experiences don't contribute to the truth value of astrology and it's in the apparent truth value of astrology where harm can result. The utility of astrology doesn't mean the truth of astrology.

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