Astrology? Sure! Crop Circles! Yeah! Holocaust denial? Buh bye.

By Phil Plait | June 23, 2008 9:54 am

If this news article is accurate, then I have now seen everything. I can close down the blog.

Why, you ask? Because of this (emphasis mine):

The massacre of Jewish people during the Holocaust was “scientifically impossible,” according to an article published by an Iranian satellite channel on its Web site.

The article was written by Nicholas Kollerstrom, an academic specializing in astrology and crop circles, who had his fellowship terminated by University College London last month after he said there were never any gas chambers at Auschwitz.

That’s right. At UCL you can be a specialist in astrology (= absolute nonsense) and even in crop circles (HAHAHAHahahahaha!) but doubt the Holocaust, and that’s when they can your butt.

This is what UCL said:

“The views expressed by Dr. Kollerstrom are diametrically opposed to the aims, objectives and ethos of UCL, such that we wish to have absolutely no association with them or with their originator,” the University College said in a statement. “We therefore have no choice but to terminate Dr. Kollerstrom’s honorary research fellowship with immediate effect.

Amazing. What was UCL thinking when they gave him money in the first place? If he’s studying astrology and crop circles, he’s already well off the path of reality. Saying the Holocaust didn’t happen isn’t too far of a stretch when you’re used to ignoring facts, evidence, observations, and an entire Universe surrounding you.

I guess it’s only when publicly embarrassing things get noticed that they decide to take action. It makes me sad they don’t consider astrology and crop circles embarrassing enough. They’re not in the same league as Holocaust denial, but c’mon.

A point: of course the Holocaust occurred, and of course there were gas chambers at Auschwitz. Holocaust deniers are every bit as irrational as any other type of fringe conspiracy theorist. And I do not deny the utter and grotesque nature of the Holocaust, and how sensitive an issue it is.

But at an academic level, a level where you try to be dispassionate when you investigate something so as not to bias yourself, Holocaust denial is not much different than belief in astrology or crop circles. There are mountains of evidence, an overwhelming tsunami of evidence, against these things, yet people cling to them despite all that.

On an emotional level, on a personal level, I would not equate astrology or crop circles with the Holocaust, of course. In general, having a University investigate them, or at least fund someone to do that, is simply throwing money away*. Here’s a hint to folks at UCL: the evidence is in, and has been for a long, long time. The Holocaust happened. Astrology doesn’t work. Crop circles are hoaxes.

Got it? Can we now please investigate things that are actually perhaps, y’know, real?



*The psychology of such beliefs would make a good study, and there are some things that tie in with, say birth date. But these are generally understood and not related to some mysterious force from the planets and constellations.

Comments (60)

  1. Lawrence

    Jeeez, people will give grants for just about anything now a-days.

    Oh well, at least they terminated the relationship. The current climate with the Iranian Government scares me – with that idiot in charge & the possibility of them getting Nuclear Weapons in the near future (though I’m sure Israel will do something before that happens – which could actually make the situation worse) – I’m afraid things will get a lot worse before they get any better.

    It is a real shame that besides Israel, Iran is the only thing approaching a democracy in the Middle East.

  2. Ray M

    Got it? Can we now please investigate things that are actually perhaps, y’know, real?

    Well, there’s no denying that crop circles are *real* :-)

  3. RawheaD

    One could be a specialist in the history of astrology, or the psychology of modern-day astrology=minded peoples… one could study the social phenomenon of crop circles… could be interesting… for an undergrad paper, though ;-)

  4. C Falconer

    The UCL website just gives this short notice:

    /Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom

    22 April 2008

    UCL has been made aware of views expressed by Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom, an Honorary Research Fellow in UCL Science & Technology Studies.

    The position of Honorary Research Fellow is a privilege bestowed by departments within UCL on researchers with whom it wishes to have an association. It is not an employed position.

    The views expressed by Dr Kollerstrom are diametrically opposed to the aims, objectives and ethos of UCL, such that we wish to have absolutely no association with them or with their originator.

    We therefore have no choice but to terminate Dr Kollerstrom’s Honorary Research Fellowship with immediate effect./

    Looking further he seems to have done a joint paper on the subject of “Newton and the Moon”

    UCL is a pretty respectable university – I would need more convincing evidence about the crop circles and astrology part of the article before believing it to be true

  5. Brian

    Got it? Can we now please investigate things that are actually perhaps, y’know, real?

    Crop circles are definitely real. They’ve been photographed and documented by far too many people to be imaginary. I don’t believe they’re made by UFOs or little green men, but their existence is inarguable.

    Studying astrology or crop circles, or even “specializing” in them, doesn’t necessarily imply believing the craziness. A friend of mine is a botanist who spends much of her time on crop circles– debunking the claims about aliens. Please don’t assume her to be on the same level as this nutjob.

  6. eric

    BA said: “The psychology of such beliefs would make a good study, and there are some things that tie in with, say birth date. But these are generally understood and not related to some mysterious force from the planets and constellations.”

    What are the things that tie in with birth date?

  7. @ Lawrence:

    “It is a real shame that besides Israel, Iran is the only thing approaching a democracy in the Middle East.”

    Iran was a democracy in the 1950s, before they elected a leader (Mossadegh) that the CIA didn’t like. They overthrew him in a coup, installed the Shah (Czar) and the rest, as they say, is history. Similar story has happened throughout the region – tyrannical puppet regimes propped up by western “Democracies”.

    Isn’t Turkey in the Middle East? Last time I looked it was a democracy. It is (Vishnu help us) on the verge of EU membership.

  8. KC

    BA, there are a few natural crop circles. They’re not well constructed, there’s no patternl, and the grain isn’t mashed flat. The usual theory is that they’re caused by whirl-winds, and the one I witnessed (it wasn’t even a complete circle, just an arc somewhat bisected by the corner of a field) did have aspects of being twisted by wind. If I were an agronomist and came across one, I would want to check if there was some sort of disease or insects at work, maybe weakening the root structure or the stem.

    OTOH, the elaborate patterns that capture the public imagination are known hoaxes. They’re lovely works of art, but if I were a farmer and didn’t give my permission, I’d be tempted to sleep in my fields with a shotgun in my hand.

    Come to think of it, here’s a suggestion for UK readers: In the U.S. we have wildlife cameras. These take photos in response to motion and time stamp them. The idea is to let hunters know what wildlife is on their land. set up a few of these around grain fields, and you might catch the culprits red-handed.

  9. bob

    Astrology at UCL: http://tinyurl.com/3t36t6

    I’ve no idea where “an academic specializing in astrology and crop circles” came from but I doubt it was UCL. Not least because they can’t spell specialising.

  10. observer

    there is no such thing as holocaust denial – sorry ..
    Its people who acting as if something *unique * happened 60+ years ago
    that are in denial.
    We have modern day Holocausts and no one seems to give a crap about it – talk about denial ..

  11. erissian

    Is there a lot of new research in the field of astrology, or was he studying it as a social phenomenon?

    Maybe he had to independently determine whether Pluto a planet, or what effects Eris has when it’s in the house of Jupiter?

  12. Tom

    bob,

    that spelling depends on whether u r using british or american spelling …

    Anyway … for me, astrology is the same nonsense as religion. I do agree that from cultural and anthropological view their study might be of some interest, but they should not be confused with science as neither rely on empirical evidence.

  13. No way! UCL expert on crop circles?! It is only yesterday that I joked about how English Universities will eventually introduce degrees on crop circles! I guess we are not that far now are we?

  14. Technogeek

    There’s one thing I’ve never understood about Holocaust denial.

    By and large, these people are rabid anti-Semites. Shouldn’t they logically be celebrating the Holocaust as the ultimate success story of their belief system?

    Wait…I found the problem. I used the word ‘logically’.

  15. Phil, didn’t one of the TAM papers presented on Sunday specifically cover research on belief in paranormal things? I forget the presenter’s name, but he was from the UK. Interesting stuff!

  16. In British usage ‘honorary’ means ‘unpaid’.

    That doesn’t really make it any better that UCL ‘wanted to have an association with him’, but at least no money was wasted.

  17. Helioprogenus

    Here’s the politically charged nature of our Zeitgeist in our current society. Should Kollerstrom have questioned the Armenian Genocide for example, he would most probably have kept his academic position, just as though he would have if he had maintained a belief in Astrology, Psychics, and Crop circles caused by mysterious alien forces. It is only when he crossed the political sensitive line of denying the Holocaust that he lost his job. Few are equating the horrific details of the Holocaust to that of crop circles or astrology, but the details in the Armenian Genocide, or any other genocide for that matter, are no less graphic and unfortunate. We should feel as emotionally disgusted by any type of truth denial, as we do when someone denies the Holocaust, the validity of evolution, the true age of the universe, etc.

  18. Alex Whiteside

    Bob: This is where the “specialising in astrology and crop circles” bit comes in.

    “In the constellation of Perseus, at twenty-six degrees of Taurus, there twinkles the binary star Algol, the ‘Gorgon’s head’.”

    [...]

    “One is haunted by the memories of MAFF officials in Cumbria hunting out pet goats owned by children to kill them. Then MAFF itself dissolved in May, from guilt too terrible to bear, morphing into a more forgettable acronym. ”

    [...]

    “Prince Charles informed her about this tragic event in a brutally casual manner a day or so later as she was getting out of a car to meet some photographers – close to or maybe on the day of Sun conjunct Algol! Di was distraught and was convinced that Mannakee had been bumped off by MI5. This was the time in her life when mortal fear entered her soul: with Pluto transiting her Neptune, Saturn on her ascendant and the Sun crossing her Venus-Algol.”

    [...]

    “At his Uranus-opposition, as Uranus moved into opposition with Algol, Tesla’s technology harnessed the power of Niagara Falls, a thing he had dreamed of doing as a child”

    [...]

    “We can now see what the two greatest rock-and-roll bands of all time had in common! Their lead singers had direct Algol contacts to their natal charts, and each group had an artist who drew it together in the beginning, both of whom also had direct Algol contacts – and both of these were mysteriously bumped off in their prime: the horror-scope of Algol. Astral philosophers may here wish to exhume those early Rolling Stones records. The macabre demise of these rock icons has been in each case documented in not one but two books published on the subject. [25-27]”

    This is all from one short article. It’s like a grab-bag of popular pseudohistorical notions.

  19. E.D

    BA:

    Perhaps you could do the man the favor of looking up his actual opinion before you perpetuate the smearing:

    “I there argued, that the levels of cyanide enduring in the walls ruled out the option that the main ‘gas chamber’ at Auschwitz, which 30 million have trooped through, could ever have been used for mass gassing. I suggested that it really was, what it appeared to be in the design plans, viz a washroom.”

    “The gas chambers at Auschwitz, where the cyanide gas was actually used, still exist, and have charming blue walls, on account of their being fairly saturated with the iron-cyanide, inside and out, on account of what happened there sixty years ago. Tours don’t visit them. ”

    This does not seem too crazy to me?

  20. @E.D — I’m not sure what he’s saying. Seems like Quote A and Quote B directly contradict?

    And add various other of his quotes:

    In an article on the site, titled “The Auschwitz ‘Gas Chamber’ Illusion,” Kollerstrom writes that only a million Jews died in the war and that “the only intentional mass extermination program in the concentration camps of World War Two was targeted at Germans.”

    The article concludes by saying: “The UN has now established its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January, as of 2006. On this anniversary, we all need to mull over the faking of history and the Greatest Lie Ever Told….”

    He doesn’t seem crazy. He seems to be an idiot, warping or outright manufacturing facts to meet his own desired reality.

  21. E.D

    Well, from what I can tell, his argument has to do with a broken historical record, and he does not go into damning or redeeming the Nazis.

    Basically, the room where the mass extermination is touted have happened does not show the evidence of it, where as *other* rooms do.

  22. Revisionist: Someone who denies that the holocaust ever happened, but secretly wishes it would happen again.

  23. C

    Those crop circle hooligans… :) The motion-sensor camera idea is a good one. Of course, then what people would see would be ~balls of light~ (from headlamps) making circles and we’d still be in the same boat.

    I’m sure it’s less fun to mash down wheat in broad daylight than it is to trespass at night and make the news. But it’s pretty juvenile. I would love to see the circle makers relieve everyone of the hoax and see if they could get in the news by being good and competitive at their art, not by pretending that their art is extraterrestrial.

    That a university professor was “studying” these talented delinquents’ work as something supernatural IS truly disturbing. However, the denial of a holocaust (whether of the Jewish people in WWII or of any other people now or in the past) is on a scale larger, I think. It is true, though, that the circles and the stars should have got him booted in the first place. Then no one would have to be hearing about his horrific bigotry.

  24. Celtic_Evolution

    @ E.D

    Read the article conclusion again, that Erica pointed out to you…

    You still want to continue defending this man? I sure wouldn’t…

  25. E.D

    I didn’t read the article. I went looking for other sources right away. But I guess you are right.

  26. Kirk

    Wait a minute…. next we’ll hear that Stalin was not responsible for ~ 20MM deaths and that Rwanda was also made up. The human race has an infinite capacity for self delusion. What it does not have is the ability to LOL at these bozos.

  27. Nigel Depledge

    Hey, Phil, don’t be too hard on UCL. After all, they once invited me to give a lecture on one of their MBA courses, so they obviously have at least some sense ;-)

  28. Stuart

    @C

    I would love to see the circle makers relieve everyone of the hoax and see if they could get in the news by being good and competitive at their art, not by pretending that their art is extraterrestrial.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_circles#Creators_of_crop_circles

  29. Stan/Tx

    BA, you had better pull up the drawbridge. You said something bad about crop circles. I can see the conspiracy theorist and UFO followers lighting up the torches to storm the castle.

  30. quote: ” At UCL you can be a specialist in astrology and even in crop circles but doubt the Holocaust, and that’s when they can your butt. ”

    Well, that’s because publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is a crime in large parts of the world, and pretty much considered a crime in the rest of it. So, in responce to Helioprogenus’ post, there’s the infamous: “not in europe”.

  31. ForShame

    Ok people: UCL did not give the imbecile money or a grant – just some title to boast. It is sufficiently bad as it is, without exaggerated claims of research funding. UCL deserves all the shame it gets for associating with this idiot, but at least no money was given.

  32. ForShame

    Any evidence on why the idiot was “academic specializing in astrology and crop circles” beyond the article? The imbecile’s web page in UCL was this one in May 2007:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070711043957/www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/nk/index.htm

    No mention of crop circles. Astrology might be there in the history of astronomy part.

    So unless there is more evidence from you, Phil, you are doing nothing but spreading disinformation when you write that “At UCL you can be a specialist in astrology (= absolute nonsense) and even in crop circles (HAHAHAHahahahaha!) but doubt the Holocaust, and that’s when they can your butt.”

    So put up or shut up.

  33. davidlpf

    When you have a creationist moon haoxer who also blelieves in astrology and crop circles are caused by ufos, who practices homeotherapy and 9/11 was a conspiracy theory and believes the holocost did not happen, and they alos believe the end of world will happen in 2012 due giant electrical currents passing through space then you see everything.

  34. Alex

    I think you’ve jumped to smearing UCL a little fast. They’re a respectable university, one of the top universities in Britain.

    It looks like he at least did some normal work as a science historian:

    He seems to also have an iconoclastic opinion on the discovery of Neptune according to this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2936663.stm

    Dr. Joe Cain from the Department of Science and Technology studies “…collaborated with Nick Kollerstrom on “Newton and the Moon” , which included facsimile material, introductory material, and software to calculate Newtonian estimates for lunar motion. Primitive now, the site was well reviewed and widely linked.” (From http://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain/projects/hazen/cain_self-assess_hazen.pdf)

    According to http://www.mailinglists.ucl.ac.uk/pipermail/sts-events/2008-January.txt, he gave a talk on the Antikythera mechanism – more history of science.

    He’s written this (weird) book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gardening-Planting-Moon-Nick-Kollerstrom/dp/0572030053

    I’m not trying to defend his denial of the holocaust or astrology or crop circles. However, I find it hard to believe that academics in the Science and Technology department at UCL think astrology works, crop circles are made by aliens or that either is going to yield groundbreaking astronomy research.

  35. Andres Villarreal

    Americans do not understand that in Europe the subject of the Holocaust is on a whole different category from any academic subject. In Germany the denial of the Holocaust, even the denial of the true extent of the Holocaust, is illegal.

    You might need an irresponsible Head of Department to endorse the study of crop circles, but you need a whole University in suicidal mode to permit using the name of the University and “no Holocaust” in the same phrase.

    The penalty to a University for promoting pseudo-science might be none at all. Holocaust denial will get the University closed.

  36. I’ve been to Dachau and seen the gas chamber there. My understanding it was identical in design to the Auschwitz gas chambers. When you’re in a building like Barrack X, which also houses the crematorium, it is hard to imagine it being anything other than a killing machine. It is creepy and an intensely sad place.

    Compared to the total number of people killed in Dachau there is little evidence that many people were killed in the gas chamber though. It is thought it may have been used for testing before building the gas chambers at Auschwitz where there is a great deal of evidence that the gas chambers killed hundreds of thousands if not millions.

  37. Hi, this is regarding to the individual is identified by their astrology birth chart and their astrological sign of the zodiac constellations. Love horoscopes and astrology birth charts are used by many people to determine if somebody they know is an astrology match.

  38. csrster

    Thumbs down for a poorly-researched post. UCL – aka “The Godless College of Gower Street” – is a respectable institution and they would not have given an honorary fellowship to someone unless they had shown themselves capable of carrying out legitimate research in a recognised academic discipline. That he subsequently turned out to be a raving nut is unfortunate, but hardly unheard of.

  39. Joe

    It is logical that a Jewish paper would try to make a holocaust denier look as bad as possible. His work with UCL looks average for a postdoc (some commenters think he was a professor – where do they get this from?). His lunacy is clearly separate from his UCL work.

    Seems more skeptical reading should be in the todo list of the bad astronomer.

  40. Roderick

    Though Henry Charles Lea would most certainly object, I should note that history is not a science. This is an important distinction; if anything, the sorts of Holocaust denial usually practiced are less heinous acts of deliberate madness than pseudoscience.

    Nevertheless, the profoundly weak arguments against the traditional narrative of the Holocaust are probably deserving of ridicule simply in their uninspired-ness. While I would never advocate deliberate denial of the Holocaust, it is important to remember that a knee-jerk reaction against any narrative that challenges the normative interpretation makes us no better than those dogmatic anti-science groups.

    I’m not familiar with the wording of the laws in European countries that ban Holocaust denial, but I hope they’re specific enough not to preclude the possibility of new evidence that challenges our existing knowledge. Ignoring ridiculous ideas is fine, but it should never be at the expense of legitimate discourse.

  41. PL

    BA, I love your blog and have been a regular reader for years, but I really think your main post on this deserves a correction/retraction, given the main implication that at UCL people study astrology and crop circles as if they’re equivalent to any of the sciences. In no way am I backing what the individual concerned had to say about the holocaust; I completely agree with UCL’s decision to remove his honorary (unpaid) position.

    The UCL Dept. of Science and Technology Studies is a highly respected department within a highly respected university. Astrology clearly has no basis in reality, but you can’t ignore its close links to astronomy as the latter was developing as a science. Likewise, there’s the cultural study of astrology and crop circles – the public at large love a good mystery, and it is a perfectly valid academic exercise to investigate this cultural phenomenon, particularly as it has sprung up from hoaxers’ creative wanderings around fields with sticks and rope. As you note in the footnote, there are valid studies of aspects of these topics, but the main text of your post clearly implies that at UCL, astrology and crop circles are somehow regarded as being on a par with physics or astronomy. They’re not, and this needs to be clarified.

    Have a look at UCL STS department’s webpage, and you’ll learn what the department is about.

    I know the phrase “If this news article is accurate” was used, but it would only have taken 5 minutes to check the basic facts in the original article before posting this message and effectively smearing the scientific reputation of an entire institution.

    PS it wouldn’t surprise me if the original news article just got it plain wrong by calling astronomy astrology!

  42. quasidog

    Just because you have knowledge of a certain subject, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. I’d give someone debunking astrology more credibility if that person had a degree in the subject itself rather than someone debunking it that didn’t really know how astrology was supposed to work in the first place. You can have a degree in astrology and still not actually believe in it’s power. You could have studied it in conjunction with some other field of study, in order to debunk it with maximum credibility.

    But I do think it would be a bit silly to teach it at a university as something that is real. On the other hand, the way in which believers deal with certain aspects of the belief, I imagine would be of great interest to psychologist’s and such, so I can see some merit.

  43. Rett

    I think that our US friends are not familiar with the terms used in the UK. This person was never a lecturer: possibly, he had no interaction with students at all! I am pretty sure nobody was “teaching astrology as something that is real”. Most probably he did not even had a desk in the university! It is usual for some of these “honorary fellows” to work outside the university and submit manuscripts that are later discussed and, if good enough, published. Thus, if the manuscripts were fine, all the craziness could pass undetected.

    Regarding STS (Science and Technology Studies), both the original poster and the commenters seem wholly unaware of it. See, for instance:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_studies

    As with many social disciplines (including history and philosophy) some parts of STS are not science, but that does not mean that they are gross pseudosciences like astrology or crop circles. And regarding the smearing of UCL with astrology (bob on 23 Jun 2008 at 10:34 am) I think this will speak for itself:

    Astrology@MIT:
    http://tinyurl.com/4wqr5u

    Astrology@Harvard:
    http://tinyurl.com/539nh3

    Astrology@Cambridge:
    http://tinyurl.com/5tun8t
    …and so on.

    As it can be seen, astrology is a perfectly good theme for study – not as a divination aid, but as a cultural phenomenon that was, in the end, the cradle of astronomy.

    An altogether careless, unfortunate post.

  44. Rett

    I think that our US friends are not familiar with the terms used in the UK. This person was never a lecturer: possibly, he had no interaction with students at all! I am pretty sure nobody was “teaching astrology as something that is real”. Most probably he did not even had a desk in the university! It is usual for some of these “honorary fellows” to work outside the university and submit manuscripts that are later discussed and, if good enough, published. Thus, if the manuscripts were fine, all the craziness could pass undetected.

    Regarding STS (Science and Technology Studies), both the original poster and the commenters seem wholly unaware of it. See, for instance:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_studies

    As with many social disciplines (including history and philosophy) some parts of STS are not science, but that does not mean that they are gross pseudosciences like astrology or crop circles. And regarding the smearing of UCL with astrology (bob on 23 Jun 2008 at 10:34 am) I think this will speak for itself:

    Astrology@MIT:
    tinyurl.com/4wqr5u

    Astrology@Harvard:
    tinyurl.com/539nh3

    Astrology@Cambridge:
    tinyurl.com/5tun8t
    …and so on.

    As it can be seen, astrology is a perfectly good theme for study – not as a divination aid, but as a cultural phenomenon that was, in the end, the cradle of astronomy.

    An altogether careless, unfortunate post.

    (Sorry if this comment appears double posted – it seemed to have been filtered due to the large number of links)

  45. Chris

    This is my first post but the aspects of this post that are an attack on UCL (rather than the attack on the obvious rubbish that is holocaust denial) have got me so cross I just could not hold myself back. I guess it is partly emotional as I applied for and was offered a PhD place to study astronomy at UCL and so feel a bit defensive. But even if that were not the case I do feel the attack is unwarranted. This man was not employed by UCL and, as far as my web searches reveal, was working as an historian. As soon as UCL discovered he held views that were incompatible with this they sent him packing.

    UCL’s statement on Kellerstrom is quoted but only in part. The part making it clear that Kellerstrom was not employed is left out and then UCL is attacked for giving him money. Also, I’m afraid that starting the post with the phrase, “If this news article is accurate,” does not in my view excuse the inaccuracies. These are serious charges levelled against a prestigious university producing excellent astronomical research. I think they deserved the investment of a few minutes of web searching to verify that the allegations against them were true rather than hiding behind weasel words.

  46. ggl1

    WTF! Epic skepticism fail. Better luck next time.

  47. Lawrence

    I don’t think Phil is slamming the institution, so much as “this guy is an idiot.”

    We’ve had more than our fair share of PhDs here in the States that have some crazy ideas (and get called on them from time to time).

    I do see some disturbing undercurrents in the comments – not outright denials, but definitely the idea that maybe things weren’t as bad as portrayed – though I believe they were actually worse.

    I don’t know if anyone here has ever been to the Holocaust Museum in DC – but it really brings home how bad it really was, not just for Jews, but Gypsies, Homosexuals, and every other undesireable that the Nazi’s wanted to get rid of.

    I think evidence of what has happened over the past sixty years since, Cambodia, Rwanda, the Balkans, and Darfur (and many others) shows what countries can do with one hand tied behind their backs – I can only imagine the horrors when one makes an genocide into an assembly line process…..

  48. ForShame

    Sorry Lawrence, but Phil IS slamming UCL. I think everybody here agrees that Holocaust denial is immoral and exceedingly dangerous – that is not the point.

    The point is that the personal delusions of Kollerstrom (astrology as pseudo-science and, of course, his revisionism) are neither tolerated nor respected by UCL, and it is profoundly dishonest on the part of Phil to bash at UCL through ridicule without even corroborating the information he got from a single online newspaper article. I do not assume malice here – just lack of critical skills. The irony is not lost on me.

  49. Sue Mitchell

    My parents were in the R.A.F. and the W.A.A.F. during World War II, so I was brought up on war stories. One that stays with me was my mother telling me about the newspaper reports, with pictures, of the liberation of the camps. She was in tears describing the stick like people who all looked identical; had lost their identities. The scale of it was unbelievable – except that it happened.

    Many years later, husband and I went to an evening’s entertainment given by Michael Bentine – the only Peruvian born in Watford, and a really wonderful man. He was one of the members of ‘The Goon Show’ with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secome.

    He was also a member of the British forces during the war, with a fund of histerically funny stories to tell.

    But his demeanor changed totally when he got on to the subject of the death camps. They’d taken a wrong turn and, unknowingly crossed the enemy lines. They ended up outside one of the camps (Buchenwald, IIRC) and were horrified at what they saw. He was – quite literally – foaming at the mouth and shaking with anger.

    They were then informed of their error and told to withdraw, but they didn’t leave without first, unofficially, liberating the prisoners and sharing out their rations.

    So don’t *anybody* try to tell me the holocaust didn’t happen!

  50. sirjonsnow

    I’ll slam UCL: your girls aren’t pretty and your soccer, or “football”, team stinks! ;)

  51. Pisces

    Really!! Next thing there will be people sayin’ we didn’t land on the Moon!!!

  52. Ade

    Nice to know my taxes go towards funding something so frikkin’ useless and someone obviously not playing with a full deck. The arbitary patterns in the sky we call constellations are a useful aid for budding amateur astronomers to learn/locate stars, but astrology is such a crock and it staggers the mind that some people still put any stock in it. Glad to hear he got canned, but rather disappointed to hear he got funding in the first place. Seems like belief in one kind of crazy puts you on a slippy slope to believing in all kinds of crap. Why not take a nice sensible degree in surfing or Klingon instead? I sometimes think I wasted my time bothering to get a decent education (mainly in computer science/IT) when there seems to be so much more money to be made in quackery and pseudo-science. Right – I’m going to start claiming to be the hearld of Cthulhu receiving apocalyptic signals from Xoth, and that everyone on the planet must send me £100 a month to prevent the world being destroyed. Hey, it’d be a decent living if even a tiny fraction of people believed it ;)

  53. This does not seem too crazy to me?

    You obviously aren’t familiar with Holocaust deniers. I am.

  54. This post reminded me of the incredible comments made by another holocaust denier, President Ahmadinejad when he spoke at Columbia:

    http://mikeb302000.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/holocaust-denial-thats-where-we-draw-the-line/

    I think gay denial is pretty irrational too, but of course he’s no academic.

  55. AJ

    @ Ade: you obviously haven’t been reading the comments of others… I’ll say it again just for you.

    This seems to be a difference of terminology, which is where BA has got confused. in the UK at least, and I think in many other countries (but not the US, which is causing the confusion), when somebody holds an “honorary research fellowship”, that isn’t a paid position.

    So he didn’t “get funding in the first place”, because there was no funding involved. :)

    About the rest – I agree with the sentiment. Too many ridiculous degrees out there…

  56. A few commenters here have complained that the integrity of UCL has been impugned. Possibly. But they certainly took there sweet time before disassociating themselves from Kollerstrom who has variously been described as an astrologer, any writings by the bloke I’ve found have a serious astrological bent, and “respected astronomer and author”. He is generally referred to as a “respected astronomer and author” by decidedly right wing organisations and people. David Duke, no less, is a defender for example. Kollerstrom has also been associated with 9/11 and 7/7 denial and conspiracy theories in the past. He has gone as far as to harass the families of victims of 7/7.

    Whatever the relationship between UCL and Kollerstrom it certainly beggars belief that he was “honoured” in the first place let alone keeping an association for as long as they did.

  57. Ade

    @ Aj: D’oh, my bad. Too many comments to read them all in detail – particularly as I was reading at work. Never having been in the situation to get funding or a fellowship of any sort, I have to admit I wasn’t really familiar with the setup and thought they did get money from public funds. Ah well, as long as the fruit loop never received any tax money, then I’m happy with that ;)

  58. dorkey

    I guess it’s only when publicly embarrassing things get noticed that they decide to take action. It makes me sad they don’t consider astrology and crop circles embarrassing enough. They’re not in the same league as Holocaust denial. On an emotional level, on a personal level, I would not equate astrology or crop circles with the Holocaust, of course.

    dorkey
    Wide Circles

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