I saw with astonishment and profound disappointment that the October 13-20 edition of the Independent’s cover story was “Star Map for the Soul: Astrological Psychologist Jennifer Freed’s new Book Published by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.”

Empirically, countless scientific studies have found that astrological predictions do no better than chance. There is no plausible mechanism even proposed for astrology. Psychology is a serious part of science and the medical profession, but “astrological psychology” is not psychology, science, or medicine. Since astrology has no predictive value, using it to inform psychology necessarily means ignoring the science. This is merely clothing bullshit in scientific terms, and it is dangerous.

Astrology grew out of a time when humans did not understand stars or planets, and we made up stories to try to understand the seemingly unpredictable world. Today, using the principles of science we’ve extended our lifespans, cured diseases, invented airplanes, created devices that connect the whole world, and determined our origins. Compare this to the contributions of astrology, the fruits of which are misguided decision making. Through science we understand that constellations are made up of stars like the sun, at all different distances — they may look like a crab, a set of scales, or a scorpion, but this is both a trick of projection and perception. And through science we know that the points of light that wander between constellations are not gods, but other worlds like the Earth.

As we have learned during the pandemic and our struggles with climate change, the public’s understanding of and comfort level with science is literally a matter of life and death. Promoting harmful nonsense masquerading as science does damage. The Santa Barbara Independent being a party to it is a sad day for our community. I offer a helping hand and hope you will join those of us trying to change the world for the better. Let’s improve scientific literacy, not erode it.

D. Andrew Howell is a staff scientist at Las Cumbres Observatory and an adjunct professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


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