Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…

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?