Mike Adams fails again: astrology edition

By Phil Plait | December 13, 2010 7:00 am

Mike Adams, who goes by the nom de guerre Health Ranger, can politely be described as an antiscience propagandist. If there’s no evidence for it, he’ll believe it: naturopathy, antivax, alt-med fluffery, you name it. He runs the website Natural News, which has an extremely high density of nonsense per electron. Normally I wouldn’t care about someone like him, but he has a substantial following, and he also promotes a lot of alt-med material that is clearly anti-science and therefore potentially dangerous; even if the stuff he sells doesn’t directly make you sick, people who buy into that mindset may avoid scientifically-based (that is, real) medicine, which can make them sicker or even be fatal.

And he recently decided to widen his circle of silliness, this time promoting astrology. Yes, astrology, one of the most thoroughly debunked beliefs of all time. And it’s not just that he promotes astrology, it’s that he’s so amazingly wrong while doing it.

In his article about this, he makes a bold claim:

Skeptics must be further bewildered by the new research published in Nature Neuroscience and conducted at Vanderbilt University which unintentionally provides scientific support for the fundamental principle of astrology — namely, that the position of the planets at your time of birth influences your personality.

I would certainly be bewildered by that… if Adams weren’t completely wrong that this has to do with astrology. What’s actually bewildering is how someone can so completely miss the point.


The study, published in the journal Nature, was in fact done by neuroscientists who were looking at the behavior of mice. The paper is online, and although it’s very technical, the results are laid clear in one key line: "These results indicate that there is an environmental imprinting of the mammalian circadian clock and its response to subsequent seasonal change under seasonal light cycles."

In other words, the seasonal light cycle (the change in the length of daylight over the course of the year: longer periods of daylight in summer, shorter in winter) can affect the natural biological rhythms of mice (and therefore, one assumes, potentially other mammals including humans). It’s known that this is true for the day/night (aka circadian) cycle, but this study shows it varies as the length of daylight varies with season, too.

But note the key result: this depends on seasonal variations of light. Look as hard as you might for mention of planetary positions in the paper, and you won’t find it. In fact, if the Sun and the Earth were the only two objects in the entire Universe — and the Earth’s axis were tilted with respect to its orbit as it is now — you’d get seasons, and seasonal changes in the length of daylight.

So the result from this scientific research has nothing at all to do with planets, let alone any principles of astrology, as well it shouldn’t: astrology is bull. Still, after grossly and obviously misrepresenting the results of the research paper, Adams goes on, trying to conflate astronomy and astrology, saying they are both misrepresented to people. He’s almost correct there, but still misses the mark. He compares the way tabloid astrology (that is, the kind you see in a newspaper column) is described to the models of the solar system used in diagrams (where the Sun and planet sizes and distance are not to scale). This is total baloney: that kind of solar system diagram is known not to be accurate, but is used just to get a sense of the system. I don’t like that kind of diagram much either, but the reality is the solar system is so big and planets so small that it’s impossible to show the true scale on anything smaller than a football field.

However, those diagrams are based on the the truth and reality of the solar system, on astronomy as a science. Since astrology is utterly wrong from its basic assumptions to its applications, any comparison to astronomy is just plain silly.

I’m not surprised, though, that Adams would so shrilly use the Nature paper to misrepresent the results and use it to try to bludgeon skeptics; he has a history of ignoring reality… and of reacting badly when this is pointed out to him.

But then, this is just one more arrow in the quiver of antireality used by people like Mike Adams. You’ll note that his site is basically one massive advertisement for his "natural" products which he claims can help or cure all manners of ills, including cancer and AIDS. That’s what led skeptic and actual medical doctor Steve Novella to call Mike Adams "a dangerous conspiracy-mongering crank".

As I’ve said about many alt-med propagandists before:

It’s always a good idea to keep yourself abreast of what these people are like. The alt-med movement talks a good game about the evil of Big Pharma and Western Medicine, and also claim they want to help people out of the goodness of their hearts… but when you actually get a glimpse of what’s in their hearts, well, it’s not exactly rainbows and unicorns.

Tip o’ the orbital plane to Glenn McQ


Related posts:

- Astrology debunked
- Alt-med purveyors show their true colors
- Alt-med guy whacked with Shorty end of the stick
- Alt Med ghouls


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Astronomy

Comments (86)

  1. Nige

    Not really surprising for the same guy that tried to rig a Twitter poll…

  2. Matt

    How the hey do you confuse the annual seasons on the Earth will the synodic period of the planets??? Let alone not realize the incredible the difference in light received from the Sun compared to the light received from the planets???

  3. Peter

    What? He took a snippet of information, took it out of context, bent it, stretched it and molded it to fit his agenda? Shocked, I am. Shocked!

  4. TechBear

    You reminded me of a study from… Sweden? Denmark?… many years ago that showed a link between when a child was born and the child’s later personality.

    The study indicated a causal link between a child’s environment between the ages of five and eight months, and subsequent personality as an adult. Basically, children who spent much of this period outside grew up to be risk takers, while children who were mostly in a more controlled environment indoors grew up to be more risk adverse and more likely to be a “happy to stay at home” person.

    Needless to say, the astrologers took this as proof, never mind the the fact that children born in different climates would have shown very different results.

  5. vel

    how does Adams confuse such things? He doesn’t. He willfully lies and that’s a shame.

  6. John EB Good

    Astrology is correct on one subject: If you live your life according to two milleniums old beliefs, you will make a pretty good pigeon for crooks. Now, give me your banking card and its PIN number and I will tell you all about your wealth in the future. :D

  7. KiD

    Here’s a webpage that apparently features the entire solar system to scale. It’s a really impressive view, and it gave me my first visceral understanding of the kinds of distances involved…

    http://www.phrenopolis.com/perspective/solarsystem/

  8. CameronSS

    I saw the title of that article on my ScienceDaily RSS feed, and without even reading it, my first thought was, “I wonder how long it’ll be before some idiot uses this to push astrology.”

  9. Gary Ansorge

    Ah yes, if you don’t agree with me, I’ll SUE. Reminds me of a certain British alt med company,,,damn, I’m glad I’m not a Brit.(no insult intended to our Brit Skeptics).

    ,,,and if wishing could make it so, I’d wish Adams was not an American,,,

    Gee, my astrology chart says I’ll meet a person of ill repute, who will try to take my money. His name will start with A,,,

    ,,,now, where did I put my Reality Ray,,,

    Astrology,,,so much fun for children and the mentally challenged(though the children understand quite well IT’S BOGUS).

    GAry 7

  10. Jon Hanford

    Notice Adams’ discussion of “How to discredit real science”:

    “It all reminds me of the discovery of cold fusion in 1989 by Fleishmann and Pons, who were widely ridiculed by the arrogant hot fusion researchers who tried to destroy the credibility (and careers) of cold fusion researchers. After the very idea of “cold fusion” was attacked and demolished by these arrogant scientists, it soon returned under a new name: Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR).”

    Is he advocating a name change for astrology?

    This seems similar to the notion of “Creation Science”, which was ‘attacked and demolished’ by scientists and ‘soon returned under a new name’: Intelligent Design (ID).

  11. There ought to be a blogging rule: when using a headline in the form “so-and-so fails again”, and so-and-so has a common name, be clear about which so-and-so is being referenced.

    A first glance at the tagline had me a little panicked/pissed.

    I have *so* got to get a different name.

  12. QuietDesperation

    Let alone not realize the incredible the difference in light received from the Sun compared to the light received from the planets???

    It’s fields, man! Rays! You can’t hide from the rays! It’s why the CIA uses them. Pfft. You’re probably a Sagittarius!

  13. Look, I’m compleletely against astrology, religion, and irreason of all kinds.

    BUT

    The study does seem to support the most important tenet of astrology – that what part of the year you’re born in can affect you. In other words, Virgos may indeed share some characteristics they don’t share with Taurans.

    This seems perfectly reasonable. As realists, of course, we know this has nothing to do with the “constellation” Virgo – it has to do with the tilt of the Earth’s axis. But the next time a superstitious person talks about astrology, we can at least admit to this grain of truth, instead of completely dismissing the subject.

  14. Oli

    “people who buy into that mindset may avoid scientifically-based (that is, real) medicine, which can make them sicker or even be fatal.”

    Sad as that is, it might be the only way to get rid of these idiots.

  15. Stephen P

    @Mark Wilden: to see that as supporting astrology you have to bend over so far backwards that it’ll cripple you for life. Consider the northern versus southern hemispheres, or high latitudes versus low latitudes. And do traditional astrological sun-sign characteristics match up even remotely with this study? No, sorry, this doesn’t qualify as even a grain of truth for astrology.

  16. BethK

    @KiD, thanks for the solar system in perspective link in comment #7. It very much shows how much bigger Jupiter is than the others. Very cool.

    Astrology doesn’t take into account northern and southern hemispheres. Besides, don’t we all know someone with our same birthday who has a very different personality? Babies born the same day at nearly the same time have very different personalities.

  17. chris j.

    Mark Wilden, your observation can be summed up more succinctly, in that the position of one planet (and only one) at birth can have a verifiable impact on your later personality. that planet being Earth, of course.

  18. Yeah, Adams stepped in it barefoot this week. He is a man bad at everything except selling crank cures.

    HJ

  19. Daniel J. Andrews

    Reiterating what Stephen P, BethK said to Mark Wilden, it would also depend on the hemisphere you’re born in–even if Virgos were to share characteristics with other Virgos in one certain country at one range of latitude in the northern hemisphere, they certainly wouldn’t share those characteristics with other Virgos living at the same range of latitude but in the southern hemisphere. Or indeed Florida Virgos wouldn’t have much in common with Minnesota Virgos (or Yukon or Alaskan or Northwest Territory Virgos).

    The urban-suburban-country aspect, the level of development of the country in which you live, and multiple other factors all come into play and would blur any seasonal-induced differences on a global scale.

    Should also note that even if Virgos shared some common characteristics, it most likely wouldn’t be the characteristics you see attributed to Virgos by astrologers.

  20. Tis the season for Cranks.
    “…astrology is bull.” – No it isn’t, its Taurus. He, He.
    “…but the reality is the solar system is so big and planets so small that it’s impossible to show the true scale on anything smaller than a football field.” – Does anyone remember a cool exhibit somewhere that shows the galaxy in scale and pluto is miles outside of town. Where is that?

    Sorry everyone, I’ve had 4 hours of sleep in 3 days, so..well I hope that explains my random silliness.

  21. I still don’t understand how charlatans like that get away with it. Surely if he’s marketing his rubbish with false claims of medical efficacy he’s committing fraud. How do people like this get away with it?

  22. Pete Jackson

    My wife has an friend who is an astrologer, and who my wife even paid for horoscopes! When this astrologer would come over to our house, I would tease her (the astrologer) by asking about how the discoveries of Eris, Sedna, etc. affected her charts. She would be ready for me and give profound astrological explanations, which went way over my head.

    But this was before the ominous discovery of asteroid 165347 philplait! I bet the astrologers would be very concerned with this spirit of skepticism sweeping the skies!

    @15 Davidlpf: Thanks for digging up this Carl Sagan footage. It’s always wonderful to see him again.

  23. @13, Mark… Note that astrology assumes no matter where on the planet you were born, the stars and planets rule your destiny. However, reading this study, one gets the feeling that the location on the planet Earth of the being (mouse) has much more to do with any effect what so ever. So a person born in December in Australia will have more in common with someone born in June in The United States, than two random December babies from around the world. Every point of time in the year has it’s exact opposite daylight pattern occurring right in the opposite hemisphere and of course to varying degrees along any line of longitude.

  24. Charlie Young

    Ouch. Those stretches Mike Adams made in his article bent my head backward. Apparently, correlation equals causation in his world. That statement about human menstrual cycles being tied to lunar cycles is amazing. I guess humans and the moon are tied together some way. I’m just wondering why no other mammals have their cycles tied to the moon?

  25. Nemo

    It’s probably worth pointing out that mice have such short lifespans and reproductive cycles that they can be born, mature, and give birth themselves within a single year. This is obviously not the case with humans. Thus, while I can see where the season of birth might be very relevant for mice, I’d be skeptical of the applicability of this research to humans.

  26. Gary Ansorge

    23. Tony Sidaway

    “Surely if he’s marketing his rubbish with false claims of medical efficacy he’s committing fraud. How do people like this get away with it?”

    Beats me. Maybe it’s because there are so MANY fruit cakes like him that anti-fraud enforcement just can’t keep up?

    As Einstein( as I recall) said “Genius has it’s limits. Unfortunately, this is not so for stupidity.”

    Gary 7

  27. Anchor

    People like Adams literally BANK on the lack of education and gullibility of people. They don’t care about being correct let alone accurate in their assertions. All they care about is that they can get people to believe their claims, and the only expertise involved in doing that is knowing how to deceive. It’s profitable, so it must be, according to their illogical thinking, ‘legitimate’.

    @13 Mark Wilden, who says, “the next time a superstitious person talks about astrology, we can at least admit to this grain of truth, instead of completely dismissing the subject.”

    You are not even WRONG. There is no “grain of truth” whatsoever. It CAN be completely dismissed. You cannot conclude that a claim contains a grain of truth because you identify a completely specious correlation which doesn’t support the claim in the first place. The correlation you find is manifestly FALSE.

    As others have already pointed out, the seasonal light cycles one experiences depend on what latitude you are located. That SHOULD mean that the behaviorial distinction between your “Virgos” and “Taurans” in the northern hemisphere must be swapped with those in the southern hemisphere. And there must be utter ambiguity in the behavior of those born near the equator. But none of that is supported in the slightest by any evidence either. The study talks about circadian clocks, a BIOLOGICAL phenomenon. It has nothing whatsoever to do with any superstition. And circadian rhythms are KNOWN to be malleable, so that, for example, if one of your Taurans who originally lived in the northern hemisphere went to live in New Zealand, one should expect from your ‘reasoning’ that it would turn him into a Virgo. A person afflicted by chronic insomnia, by your reasoning, should lose his or her zodiacal identity.

    Even astrologers can’t seem to pinpoint what’s responsible for the putative influencing. They waltz around the question by suggesting ‘forces’ or ‘energies’ which they claim is exhuded by the planets which is in turn modulated somehow (who knows? certainly not them) by their particular positions which they allege affects a person at the time of their birth. Heck, historically – for umpteen centuries – astrologers weren’t even concerned about a mechanism until modern science came along and encouraged some of the more clever amongst them to attempt an ‘explanation’ for why it works.

    They haven’t managed to come up with so much as a clue, you know.

    Imagine a person born in a space colony somewhere in the asteroid belt in the far future, completely raised in a hermetically-sealed environment in which artificial lighting is scheduled to go through some cycle or another. Now: do you really think there is a “grain of truth” to the contention that the positions of the planets at the time of birth, OR that the light cycle the colonist experiences determines whether they are a Virgo or a Taurus?

    So, the next time a superstitious person talks about astrology, we can and should admit to this “grain of truth”: there isn’t a jot of truth in it, and the subject CAN be safely dismissed as the cock-and-bull baloney that it is.

  28. QuietDesperation

    People like Adams literally BANK on the lack of education and gullibility of people.

    That’s why I always say the people peddling the bunk are *not* the dumb ones. Same with politicians and political pundits who sell a lot of books.

  29. Matt B.

    @13 Mark Wilden. The study doesn’t say indiviuals born at different times have anything different about them. It actually says they’re the same. No matter when the individual is born, the light patterns immediately imprint on the biological cycles to put that individual in the same point in the cycles as everyone else in the area.

  30. Michel

    @Oli
    Yup, Survival of the smartest will be the next big step in evolution.
    Problem is that smart people tend to have less kids.
    So to all smart people out there: F*CK!

    And today I went to town for the first time in a long time. I live in a little town with 450 souls. So I went shopping for magazines. Bookshop 1: were are the astronomy magazines? I followed the pointing finger… 6 (SIX!) magazines about astrology!
    I never knew those people made glossies.
    Next bookstore the same, all newsstands in supermarkets we went the same thing. NOTHING on astronomy! Just astrology bulls*it.
    *sigh*
    I was depressed when I came home. It was a horrible day. But it´s clear so let´s see what the Geminids will throw around tonight.

  31. Declan McCabe

    I tried commenting on the article on Saturday; needless to say my comment was not published. Instead it says that there are no comments. There are 32 comments here in under 5 hours. So, why none in direct response to Mike’s article???? I’ll put it here instead:

    “I find your interpretation of the Nature Neuroscience utterly misleading. A quick read of the original publication reveals that the authors manipulated perinatal photoperiod and measured responses in the mice. Photoperiod was manipulated in a lab environment rendering planetary alignments irrelevant. Perhaps contacting the authors for comment would be worthwhile? Respectfully yours; Declan J McCabe
    Declan 12/11″

    Cheers, and thanks for providing a forum for response.

  32. Joseph G

    So a crank acknowledges the known issue of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and somehow this vindicates his loopiness? Har!

  33. Martin Blaise

    On p.31 of Mike Bara’s new book ‘The Choice,’ we learn that “astrology is a perfectly valid and defensible science.” Just one of 24 documented errors in that wretched work of anti-science.
    http://dorkmission.blogspot.com/2010/10/point-by-point-critique-of-mike-baras.html

    NOTE: Bara was formerly Richard Hoagland’s co-author.

  34. Mark Hansen

    Mark Wilden, the grain of truth is similar to a stopped watch. It’s only right twice a day because we see it that way.

  35. QuietDesperation

    Next bookstore the same, all newsstands in supermarkets we went the same thing.

    Amazon is *your* friend! Subscriptions are better anyway.

    Astronomy magazine:
    http://www.amazon.com/Astronomy/dp/B000PUAI3E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1292272149&sr=8-1

    Sky & Telescope:
    http://www.amazon.com/Sky-Telescope/dp/B00008BFWB/ref=sr_1_7?s=magazines&ie=UTF8&qid=1292272209&sr=1-7

    BBC’s Sky At Night
    http://www.amazon.com/BBC-Sky-at-Night-Magazine/dp/B000C29174/ref=sr_1_10?s=magazines&ie=UTF8&qid=1292272209&sr=1-10

    SkyNews:
    http://www.amazon.com/Skynews/dp/B0002IWXBO/ref=sr_1_9?s=magazines&ie=UTF8&qid=1292272209&sr=1-9

    And, er, um… Biblical Astronomer, which I link here for the curiosity factor:
    http://www.amazon.com/Biblical-Astronomer/dp/B00007LM52/ref=sr_1_6?s=magazines&ie=UTF8&qid=1292272209&sr=1-6

    Just search on Astronomy under “Magazine Subscriptions”. All sorts of odd periodicals pop up.

    What the heck is Comet Tales?
    http://www.amazon.com/Comet-Tales/dp/B00007HY9M/ref=sr_1_32?s=magazines&ie=UTF8&qid=1292272556&sr=1-32

    Sunspot Bulletin? The past few years must have been pretty broing for them:
    http://www.amazon.com/Sunspot-Bulletin/dp/B00008JO3L/ref=sr_1_31?s=magazines&ie=UTF8&qid=1292272556&sr=1-31

    There’s just no description for those last two. Mystery!

  36. Joseph G

    @#37 Quiet Desperation: Well, Sunspot Bulletin seems to be in constant flux – their coverage varies over time, too. Comet Tales is a highly eccentric publication – some fantastic visuals once in a great while, but not too substantial, lots of fluff.

  37. John Paradox

    Imagine a person born in a space colony somewhere in the asteroid belt in the far future, completely raised in a hermetically-sealed environment in which artificial lighting is scheduled to go through some cycle or another.

    That reminds me of Stranger In A Strange Land, where the President’s Wife consults an astrologer regularly. (Good thing we’ve never had such a President, eh? /snark). When the First Lady asks about a horoscope for Valentine Michael Smith (the man born on Mars), the astrologer has to almost create a new kind of astrology to cover the situation.

    J/P=?

  38. Shasta

    But wait, wait! He DID distinguish between “Fake” astrology and “real” astrology after all. and MIKE ADAMS is a fan of the “real” kind— naturally.
    :P snort.

  39. John EB Good

    @39 John Paradox: It shouldn’t be this hard to make the birth chart for Mike. There’s no need for a new astrology. It’s all based on ephemerids, the same ones used by real astronomers. Then it’s just a matter of replacing Mars’s suspected influence by Earth’s one (which should be a much better planet for conflicts so, let’s say t’s'tha same as Mars, but twice as worst) by placing it in the proper constellation and house, then, stick to generalities, tell the Lady what she wanna hear and voilà! Check please!!!

    I suspect the astrologer in this story simply didn’t grok his art. Or worst, he took himself seriously.

    Cheers, you are God.

  40. Elwoodius

    @23 Non-Believer, there’s a great scale model of the solar system in Melbourne, Australia. It’s at the St Kilda beach and starts with the Sun at about 1m in diameter, and Pluto is a few kilometres away.
    Highly recommended.

  41. Woah! Some folks need to realize that “a grain” is a very tiny amount indeed.

    I was simply saying that the time of year when you are born affects you. And that people who are born at similar times of year can share characteristics. That’s what the study implied. (Pace their hemisphere, which is a valid point.)

    My point was that if astrology believers point this out as evidence for their superstition, we can point them to the study to explain the real reason for any such correlation.

  42. Messier Tidy Upper

    Confusing the stars of the zodiac with the seasons? :-o *facepalm*

    I think this :

    http://ihasahotdog.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/funny-dog-pictures-stupid-magnitude.jpg?w=430&h=500

    is the appropriate image for that. ;-)

    @38. Joseph G : LOL. :-)

  43. jcm

    Climate change infographic now in comic form.

  44. traditional astrology is wrong. however at lifescape astrology, after decades of research, we have formulated some simple principles, which will cleary prove predetermination.

    like mars making adverse angles defined on website with sedna and intermania (planets not considered in traditional astrology) are bound to bring negations in married life of women. if someone can show any exception, we would reward him.

    we request mike adams, to take training from us and then to prove to the world, that predetermination and lifescape astrology is true science. we are on the same job, but then this is a large project and due to resource constraint , we are moving slow. but with in this decade, we are committed to our misssion that scientists would be accepting planetary effects at the time of birth as governing human life.

    rakesh singhal

  45. Messier Tidy Upper

    Off topic a bit but more facepalming stupidity here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xayDw2gS7-0

    with the “War on Xmas” mob rearing their ugly heads now in dreadful bad facts movie form. Spot the most errors and win a prize? :roll:

    Just thought some folks might be interested in hearing of this latest burst of unChristian, mean-willed idiocy.

    Related BA blog posts :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/05/07/we-are-not-a-christian-nation/

    Yes, they make that error

    & http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/10/01/the-atheists-guide-to-christmas/

    On the whole war on Xmas thing.

    @45. jcm says: Climate change infographic now in comic form.

    Nice work. I may have to cite /link it sometime. Thanks. :-)

  46. Michel

    @QuietDesperation
    Ah yes! Amazon is a good friend indeed. Were else can you buy books that are cheaper than the postage? And yes, the internetz are a great source of information. It´s amazing how big the net has got since I first went online in ´93. So much and so many sites and info. I own/run an internetcafe, which is great. The customers do their own thing and I have all day to browse read/educate myself/find “stuff” etc. I love it.
    But still a magazine would be have been nice. Call me old fashioned.
    It´s the smell and feel of a book/magazine that´s part of the experience.
    The musky, and a bit sour, smell of a library for example. Can´t beat it.
    Or the smell of fresh printing ink… hmmmmm
    It´s the aroma of knowledge.
    You want your food to smell nice too and in that sense I miss something on the internetz.

  47. PayasYouStargaze

    @46 Rakesh. How can we take you seriously when your website has misspelled astrology on the homepage? Your “Challenge to Scientists…” article says astorlogy. LOL

    Anyway Rakesh, you do realise that it’s up to you to demonstrate to the scientific community how your claims work? That’s how science works. If your particular brand of magic is actually science, it shouldn’t be too hard to gain the support of the scientists you seem so keen on challenging.

    Yet your website just makes the same old claims about the positions of planets and gemstones affecting people’s lives which has all been thouroughly debunked already.

  48. Steve Metzler

    23. Tony Sidaway Says:

    I still don’t understand how charlatans like that get away with it. Surely if he’s marketing his rubbish with false claims of medical efficacy he’s committing fraud. How do people like this get away with it?

    Because in the U.S., there is a huge regulatory loophole regarding how the FDA treats various substances. If you want to label your product a ‘drug’, then you have to go through years of red tape and clinical trials to bring your product to market. But if you instead slap the ‘nutritional’ label on it… then it’s virtually a free pass/anything goes.

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Mark Wilden (13) said:

    The study does seem to support the most important tenet of astrology – that what part of the year you’re born in can affect you. In other words, Virgos may indeed share some characteristics they don’t share with Taurans.

    This seems perfectly reasonable. As realists, of course, we know this has nothing to do with the “constellation” Virgo – it has to do with the tilt of the Earth’s axis. But the next time a superstitious person talks about astrology, we can at least admit to this grain of truth, instead of completely dismissing the subject.

    Yeah, I think this was kinda already known, although I’m not sure anyone had ever before monitored real-time gene expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that regulates the circadian cycle.

    IIRC, it was known when I was an undergrad (erm . . . c 20 years ago) that the time of year you were born had some correlation with certain behavioural traits, although I don’t recall much detail about this.

    BTW, Phil, the journal is Nature Neuroscience, which is a “daughter” journal of Nature.

  50. Nigel Depledge

    PayAsYouStargaze (49) said:

    @46 Rakesh. How can we take you seriously when your website has misspelled astrology on the homepage? Your “Challenge to Scientists…” article says astorlogy. LOL

    While you may be correct, this is still an example of the poisoning the well logical fallacy.

  51. Nigel Depledge

    Rakesh Singhal (16) said:

    traditional astrology is wrong. however at lifescape astrology, after decades of research, we have formulated some simple principles, which will cleary prove predetermination.

    What do you mean “will … prove predetermination”? Either you have demonstrated precognition or you have not. Which is it?

    Also, so that we know you’re not merely posting grand claims to boost traffic to your website, how about you summarise your methodology and results here?

    like mars making adverse angles defined on website with sedna and intermania (planets not considered in traditional astrology)

    Well, aside from the fact that these are technically minor planets, not planets, why not also consider Ceres? And Vesta? Or Ida? Or, hell, why not consider the location of asteroid Philplait while you’re at it?

    Why is it that you consider the relative positions of some few solar system bodies but none of the many thousands of similar solar system bodies?

    are bound to bring negations in married life of women. if someone can show any exception, we would reward him.

    As a commenter (49) has already pointed out, this is not any way to convince anyone. You made the claim: therefore, you shoulder the burden of proof.

    Otherwise, you will have to accept the existence of the invisible pink unicorn in my back garden unless you can prove it does not exist.

  52. PayasYouStargaze

    @52 and 53 Nigel. Well I think the well is already well and truly poisoned. But I had hoped that the rest of my post would offset that. You always do a bang up job of countering nonsense on here anyway.

    Does you invisible pink unicorn have any affect on a person depending on where it is when they are born?

  53. Dunc

    people who buy into that mindset may avoid scientifically-based (that is, real) medicine, which can make them sicker or even be fatal.

    Poor choice of sentence construction begging for quote mining there…

    Here’s a webpage that apparently features the entire solar system to scale. It’s a really impressive view, and it gave me my first visceral understanding of the kinds of distances involved…

    http://www.phrenopolis.com/perspective/solarsystem/

    Fantastic! Thanks for that.

  54. Nigel Depledge

    BethK (17) said:

    Astrology doesn’t take into account northern and southern hemispheres. Besides, don’t we all know someone with our same birthday who has a very different personality? Babies born the same day at nearly the same time have very different personalities.

    Yes, this may well be so. The correlation does not hold for all possible traits, only some.

  55. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel J Andrews (21) said:

    The urban-suburban-country aspect, the level of development of the country in which you live, and multiple other factors all come into play and would blur any seasonal-induced differences on a global scale.

    Not so (probably). From what I recall, the correlation can be picked out from these effects.

  56. Nigel Depledge

    Non-believer (22) said:

    Does anyone remember a cool exhibit somewhere that shows the galaxy in scale and pluto is miles outside of town. Where is that?

    Sorry everyone, I’ve had 4 hours of sleep in 3 days, so..well I hope that explains my random silliness.

    And, presumably, your conflation of “galaxy” and “solar system” . . . ?
    ;-)

  57. Nigel Depledge

    PayAsYouStargaze (54) said:

    @52 and 53 Nigel. Well I think the well is already well and truly poisoned.

    Yup. :-)

    But I had hoped that the rest of my post would offset that.

    Yes, but I’m a picky so-and-so.

    You always do a bang up job of countering nonsense on here anyway.

    Thank-you.

    Does you invisible pink unicorn have any affect on a person depending on where it is when they are born?

    Well, only insofar as the size of its horn varies according to the birth date of the person it has just impaled.

  58. Nigel Depledge

    Pete Jackson (24) said:

    . . . I would tease her (the astrologer) by asking about how the discoveries of Eris, Sedna, etc. affected her charts. She would be ready for me and give profound astrological explanations, which went way over my head.

    Or, possibly, the “explanations” really didn’t mean anything.

  59. raoul duke

    Well, I haven’t read the paper but I *know* it must mention at least one planetary position: the Earth. Where the light and dark happened for the study.

    That said, he’s an idiot.

  60. Nigel Depledge

    John Sandlin (25) said:

    So a person born in December in Australia will have more in common with someone born in June in The United States, than two random December babies from around the world. Every point of time in the year has it’s exact opposite daylight pattern occurring right in the opposite hemisphere and of course to varying degrees along any line of longitude.

    True.

    IIUC, astrology has a long history in the northern mid-latitudes, not so much elsewhere.

  61. Nigel Depledge

    Charlie Young (26) said:

    That statement about human menstrual cycles being tied to lunar cycles is amazing.

    That’s an old one, long since debunked. More women don’t have a cycle that matches that of the moon than do. Unless you consider any whole number from 26 to 30 to be equivalent to 29.5.

  62. Nigel Depledge

    Anchor (29) said:

    Imagine a person born in a space colony somewhere in the asteroid belt in the far future, completely raised in a hermetically-sealed environment in which artificial lighting is scheduled to go through some cycle or another. Now: do you really think there is a “grain of truth” to the contention that the positions of the planets at the time of birth, OR that the light cycle the colonist experiences determines whether they are a Virgo or a Taurus?

    Yes, the light cycle will influence some (but not all!) of the traits that are typically assigned as typical of “virgo” or “taurus”. However, IIUC, what has more influence than light is temperature and nutrition (note that it is only in the last 30 years or so that fruits and vegetables are readily available out of season). Assuming what I learned as an undergrad student was correct.

    So, the next time a superstitious person talks about astrology, we can and should admit to this “grain of truth”: there isn’t a jot of truth in it, and the subject CAN be safely dismissed as the cock-and-bull baloney that it is.

    And I think you have completely missd the point that Mark was making.

  63. Michel

    “cock-and-bull baloney”

    He ment Cow and Chicken ofcourse.

  64. Calli Arcale

    Charlie Young @ 26:

    Ouch. Those stretches Mike Adams made in his article bent my head backward. Apparently, correlation equals causation in his world. That statement about human menstrual cycles being tied to lunar cycles is amazing. I guess humans and the moon are tied together some way. I’m just wondering why no other mammals have their cycles tied to the moon?

    It’s one of my major pet peeves as well. Anyone who thinks women are tied to the moon hasn’t spent a lot of time actually studying them. (And yes, that goes for women who think that as well. Most people are sloppy observers, even of themselves, and women seldom note very carefully when they last menstruated.) The female menstrual cycle is so variable that there’s no conceivable (hah!) way it has anything at all to do with the Moon’s orbit. A woman with a regular cycle could have a 27 days cycle followed immediately by a 32 day one. Being “late” is not unusual, which is why doctors don’t recommend panicking about unplanned pregnancy until a woman is at least two weeks overdue for her period.

    It’s a pet peeve of mine, when woomeisters link the female menstrual cycle to the Moon. They’re simply perpetuating an ancient error rooted in sloppy observation.

  65. Charlie Young

    I should just pass on any mention of Mike Adams in the future. Every time I read some of his drivel, I obsess over it for days because his ideas are so off base and twisted from any sense of reality. I have read a couple articles on his site and they all take some actual science and warp it to mean nothing that the original research ever stated. I’m trying to fathom why he went on a rant about how the Bush administration cut funding to science and that we needed to restore that funding as soon as possible. I can only imagine he just needs more ammo for his site since he denigrates all real scientists out there.

  66. Chris Winter

    Mike Adams doesn’t understand particle physics very well, either. Not that it matters; understanding science is not his game.

    In his article, he implies that the changing relationships among Sun, Moon and Earth, and their seasonal effect on light at Earth’s surface are part of the basis of astrology. What then of the distant planets, which figure just as prominently in classical astrology? And what of the constellation of artificial satellites?

  67. Chris Winter

    Thanks, KiD (#7)! I’ve bookmarked that page.

    Scrolling across it watching the representations of planets whip by, I was reminded of the scene in Heinlein’s Methusalah’s Children when the escaping Howard families dive their ship toward the Sun and then use Slipstick Libby’s device to render it inertialess, so that the light pressure gives them enormous outward velocity.

    Another neat feature of that novel is that when they manage to return, Slipstick figures out how long they’ve been gone based on the new positions of the planets.

  68. Mark Hansen

    rakesh, your website is slightly broken. I (perhaps naively) clicked on the link “overview of lifescape theory” to learn a bit more. 10 minutes later and it still won’t load. Maybe your website was built during an inauspicious planetary alignment?

  69. PayasYouStargaze

    @15 David. Excellent Sagan video. He could describe something like no one else could.

  70. PierySance

    Seems like whatever time of year those mice where born, “institute of whatever

  71. Anchor

    @30, QuietDesperation, who says: “That’s why I always say the people peddling the bunk are *not* the dumb ones. Same with politicians and political pundits who sell a lot of books.”

    Ah, another one who thinks that smarts inherently comes with a dishonest nature. Or, by inverse implication, that poverty is the only place one may ever find sincerity and a sense of virtue, ethical behavior and altruism.

    How astonishing your insight is.

    Are you also capable of thinking anything out first before speaking or commenting on it? Or is it all, you know, just all about flinging boogers of wise opinion out there quicker than anybody else can?

  72. Anchor

    @43 Mark Wilden who says: “Woah! Some folks need to realize that “a grain” is a very tiny amount indeed. I was simply saying that the time of year when you are born affects you. And that people who are born at similar times of year can share characteristics. That’s what the study implied. (Pace their hemisphere, which is a valid point.) My point was that if astrology believers point this out as evidence for their superstition, we can point them to the study to explain the real reason for any such correlation.”

    Whoa! Too bad you weren’t nearly so explicit in your previous post. Or is the difference between what you say now in #43 and in your previous post @#13 worth only the amount of a “tiny grain”?

    You SAID in #13: “The study does seem to support the most important tenet of astrology – that what part of the year you’re born in can affect you. In other words, Virgos may indeed share some characteristics they don’t share with Taurans. This seems perfectly reasonable.”

    No, it isn’t in the slightest reasonable. Not only that, your excuse in #43 STILL insists that the time of year one is born affects you. That’s still WRONG. But you imagine that a study dealing with mice under lab conditions using artificial light cycles (“environmental imprinting of the mammalian circadian clock and its response to subsequent seasonal change under seasonal light cycles.”) can be equated with a group of a dozen distinct behavioral types which astrology reckons describe all of humanity.

    Are you serious??? That any baby who is transported from the northern hemisphere to the southern within days of its birth during the solstice seasons will inevitably confront different light cycles REGARDLESS of the planetary configuration under which it was born??? That, whatever the effect of light circadian rhythms, you explicitly discount the planetary positions as “the most important tenet” of astrology???

    Are you kidding???

    There are no tenets to astrology that have any bearing on reality, let alone an importance such as you ascribe, and there is absolutely no reason to think (the science study notwithstanding) that the time of year affects people in such a way as to distinguish one type of personality born under a particular zodiacal sign from another, or that there are any such distinctions to be found in any population of humans anywhere, regardless of where and when they were born.

    That exceedingly tiny little grain you evidently wish to support your opinion must be mighty weighty indeed to be able to support your claim for a plausible platform for discussion. It is a joke. Face it.

  73. Anchor

    @46, rakesh singhal: Aye yuy yuy.

    One might actually think these guys have had plenty of time (at least a factor of 5 longer than modern science has ever had, you know, just figuring out trifles like general relativity, quantum mechanics and biological evolution via natural selection) just to determine whether ANY of their principles are reflected in the realities as exhibited by nature. Alas, they haven’t yet found any, but that doesn’t exactly stop them from believing in their schtick. Oh how powerful and all-consuming faith, loyalty and tradition can be when it comes to facing the otherwise devastating horror of truth.

  74. Anchor

    @#64 Nigel Depledge, who says, “And I think you have completely missd the point that Mark was making.”

    Hardly. I got PRECISELY the point he was TRYING to make. And he’s dead wrong. As you are in thinking I can’t recognize a spurious argument. You can check out #77 for more.

  75. Nigel Depledge

    Anchor (77) said:

    No, it isn’t in the slightest reasonable. Not only that, your excuse in #43 STILL insists that the time of year one is born affects you. That’s still WRONG.

    And this is rubbish. You are wrong to dismiss the point out of hand – the reasoning might be faulty, and that commenter’s defence of the probable origins of astrology may have been unclear, but it does chime with several things I have read in the popular-science press, such as New Scientist.

    The time of year you are born does influence some aspects of your character or behaviours. At least one study has shown this with some statistical significance.

    The reasons for this are not clear, but it is certainly nothing to do with the planets or the constellations on the ecliptic. IIUC, the most convincing hypothesis to explain this is to do with seasonal variations in nutrition.

    Of course – as I allude to in a previous comment – seasonal variations in nutritional intake are decreasing in most of the societies that used to hold astrology in some regard.

  76. Nigel Depledge

    Anchor (79) said:

    @#64 Nigel Depledge, who says, “And I think you have completely missd the point that Mark was making.”

    Hardly. I got PRECISELY the point he was TRYING to make. And he’s dead wrong. As you are in thinking I can’t recognize a spurious argument. You can check out #77 for more.

    So, let’s see:
    Seasonal variations of one kind or another lead to an association of some characteristics with the time of year (or, perhaps more significantly, the season) in which a person is born. This may or may not have led to the beginnings of astrology, but it has certainly been used as some vague affirmation of astrology, even though astrology is – as we all know – bull.

    Mark Wilden makes some comment to this effect, suggesting that there may be the tiniest fragment of truth in the basic idea of astrology – that the time at which one is born influences one’s character.

    You then gave him a thorough kicking about astrology being wrong, wrong, wrong, and that he too is wrong because he said it was true, despite the fact that he prefaced his initial comment with a statement to the effect that he knows astrology is wrong.

    I point out that you missed his point, and you tell me that I’m implying you can’t recognise a spurious argument? WTF?

    I did not see any of his comments as a defence of astrology, but as a mere observation about how he can see why some folks might think that there is something to it. But, hey, perhaps that was just me giving him the benefit of the doubt. You seem to think you know better than he or I what either of us was thinking.

  77. Nigel Depledge

    Anchor (76) said:

    @30, QuietDesperation, who says: “That’s why I always say the people peddling the bunk are *not* the dumb ones. Same with politicians and political pundits who sell a lot of books.”

    Ah, another one who thinks that smarts inherently comes with a dishonest nature. Or, by inverse implication, that poverty is the only place one may ever find sincerity and a sense of virtue, ethical behavior and altruism.

    What utter rubbish!

    QD made no such association. Again, you seem to take someone’s observation and extrapolate all sorts of tacet implications from it that aren’t necessarily present at all.

    The fact remains that many shysters and con artists are clever enough to be raking in more cash than a whole cross section of (at-least-) equally intelligent but more scrupulous scientist and engineer types. There are a few who quite obviously believe their own hype, but it seems both reasonable and likely that there will be a large proportion who don’t believe their spiel – it is merely a means by which to part a fool from his/her money.

    Are you also capable of thinking anything out first before speaking or commenting on it? Or is it all, you know, just all about flinging boogers of wise opinion out there quicker than anybody else can?

    Glass houses. Bricks. Just sayin’ . . .

  78. Well, clearly he’s following a homeopathic truth. He takes the truth, dilutes it, then dilutes it again, then dilutes it a third time so that not 1 word in 10,000 is actual fact, and that makes it even more powerfully truthful.

  79. Cathy

    I’ve been arguing for years that while the position of planets has no influence on personalities (and it’s total bunk to say you can predict the future from them), that the season may actually have an influence, and this is the microscopic molecule of truth within astrology. We know that the prenatal environment is critical to the course of development of the embryo, and if you enjoy warm sunny summer months during certain stages of infant development and cooler, darker winter months at a different stage, it might have some impact on the you that develops into adulthood. The big difference is, this sort of belief isn’t called astrology – it’s called science. I’m glad the team in Nature tackled this issue. One of these days, we will be able to pin down what really happens, and we can finally lay the astrology myth to rest.

  80. I once had a young woman working for me that was recent honors graduate in Physics. One day al lunch we were laughing about how ridiculous astrology was. She was the kind of person that could not let go of an idea after it had entered her mind.

    A few days later she came in with a computer file of mathematics that was far beyond my weak math skills. She explained (patiently, I was only a poor, weak man manager) that the numbers showed that the gravitational pull of the obstetrician who delivered you was more powerful than that of the planet Jupiter. I guess that means I was born under the influence of Dr. Hunter rising with Nurse Johnson attending?

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