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Astrologers angered by stars

Professor Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain have unleashed the wrath of Britain's astrologers with their comments about the ancient art on BBC2's "Stargazing Live" show, with the result that the Astrological Association of Great Britain have started a petition they plan to send to the BBC.

The section of the program that caused the fuss has been described in truly harrowing terms by 'respected astrologer' Angela Cornish, in an e-mail that was published by the SkyScript blog:

"If you didn't happen to see it, there were two presenters, Professor Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain. All was going well until they got to a part where they had models of the planets in our solar system on a table and Dara was explaining that all of the planets orbit at different speeds and distances away from the Sun. He said only the earth orbits the Sun in 365 days and returns to its own place, showing that horoscopes are nonsense. He then went on to add **"Let's get this straight once and for all, Astrology is rubbish"** The other presenter, Brian Cox, then agreed and said **"in the interests of balance on the BBC, yes astrology is nonsense."**

Shocking stuff, I think you'll agree.

This is not the first time that Brian Cox has waded into the astrology controversy that has raged in science for literally almost none of the last couple of centuries. The hackles of Britain's astrologers were raised last year, when Cox took a moment during his Wonders of the Solar System series to explain to the public that "astrology is a load of rubbish," a statement which pretty much echoes the scientific consensus on the matter, which says that, "astrology is a load of rubbish." It's a position that was first reached by Islamic scholars at least 650 years ago, and has been studiously ignored by such great minds as Jonathan Cainer ever since.

Since then, TV's most clean-shaven male Professor has become a bit of a lightning rod for astrologically-guided criticism, and the Astrological Association of Great Britain's new petition names him personally:

The Association will be requesting that the BBC make a public apology and a statement that they do not support the personal views of Professor Brian Cox or Dara O'Briains on the subject of astrology. We also request that the BBC will commit to making a fair and balanced representation of astrology when aired in the future.

On the second sentence at least I think we can all agree. I'd love to see the BBC give a fair and balanced representation of astrology. In fact sod it, let's extend that to all newspapers as well.

Such a representation would depict astrology as a pseudoscience with no real basis in evidence that was already being ridiculed in the Dark Ages, and note that after thousands of years astrologers still can't produce statistically meaningful results.

It would observe that any apparent successes of astrology probably owe more to the use of cold-reading techniques, convenient vagueness, and the exploitation of psychological quirks like confirmation bias or the Forer effect, and express amazement at the continued ability of the astrological industry to lift hundreds of millions of euros, pounds and dollars out of the pockets of customers each year.

Read on. (The original article also contains several links, which we haven't reproduced here)



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