Ragged Clown

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Astrology and Genetic Engineering

My local public radio station, KQED, has these annoying pledge drives every six months. About 20 minutes of every hour are devoted to a blah blah blah blah telethon that lasts two weeks. My membership expired in June but I didn’t renew precisely because the pledge drives annoy me so much. So, I was delighted this morning when they announced a new format for the pledge drives that would skip all the blah blah blah.

I like to reward good behavior so I resolved to renew my membership on the very first day of the new drive. But then they did the piece about Pluto…

…by an astrologer.

I immediately tore up my virtual cheque and tossed it out the window.

Fortunately they redeemed themselves with a stay-in-the-car piece about 10 minutes later. Stay-in-the-car pieces are the ones where, when you reach your destination, you stay in the car to listen to the end of the article. The ones where your wife comes out to find out why her husband is sitting alone in the car in the dark in the garage rather than rushing inside to hug her and share the joyous news of the day.

This one was about tree galls. You know, those unsightly blobs on the side of trees. They are caused by a variety of parasites but the subject of this particular piece was caused by the gall wasp. Gall wasps inject snippets of RNA into the tree which causes the tree to manufacture a protein which causes an unsightly blob to grow on the side of the tree in which the gall wasp larvae can develop in comfort. Add in the fact that the wasps have two methods of reproduction – in one generation they do the usual male-female sex thing, in the next, males are unnecessary – and I found myself virtually taping back together that cheque that I had ripped up so angrily.

Once again, I reflected on how much more beautiful and fantastic and miraculous the universe is when seen through the lens of science rather than through the distorting spectacles and ad hoc, fairy-tale magic of the alternative explanations.

I have one last question on astrology and then I am done. Is astrology one of those belief systems that, while clearly nonsense, must be treated with respect?


6 responses to Astrology and Genetic Engineering

Rob Heiser August 25, 2006

I heard the Pluto Astrologer piece you’re talking about on the way home, too. I got the impression they were treating it with mock respect. Or maybe they were treating it with respect and I added the “mock” part because I don’t take astrology seriously myself. Anyway, I thought it was hilarious. Especially the part when the astrologer was told about a radio employee who was told that he would never marry because of some aspect of Pluto. The astrologer’s response? “Pluto can’t tell him that. I would call that malpractice!”. He was very serious about it.

Aaron Rhodes August 25, 2006

I only pretend to respect astrology when I am trying to get laid.

Aaron Rhodes August 25, 2006

To add to my comment, when I am not trying to get laid, what I like to do is read people their horoscope or astrological information from a book from the wrong month and watch in glee as they say, “Gosh, that’s spot on!”

[typos fixed at author’s request – ed]

Kevin August 25, 2006

There was a Far Side cartoon once that said everyone born under the sign of Taurus will get run over by a vegetable truck

Bob August 25, 2006

I don’t think astrology is one of those that deserves respect. Who was the great teacher from astrology, and what was his/her message to the world?

Another reason astrology deserves no automatic respect, or lack of scrutiny, is that it puts on the air of science, e.g., calculating the rising sign, etc.., whereas most mainstream religions don’t. They demand faith as a first-class notion, not calculators.

Kevin August 25, 2006

A belief system is more worthy of respect the less evidence there is that supports it?

If the astrologers had a cool founder they would be worthy of respect (bonus points if he had a beard and his history was lost in mists of time)?

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