warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Astronomer: 'Astrology Is Not Real Science'

Jiawei Wang |
January 24, 2014 | 5:21 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

David Falk giving a talk on astrology and astronomy, Los Angeles, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. The talk examined the underpinnings and the controversy between both subjects . (Neon Tommy/ Jiawei Wang)
David Falk giving a talk on astrology and astronomy, Los Angeles, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. The talk examined the underpinnings and the controversy between both subjects . (Neon Tommy/ Jiawei Wang)

The Center for Inquiry hosted a seemingly innocuous event in Hollywood about astrology and astronomy on Sunday morning to openly discuss the scientific merits of the two disciplines, but the talk prompted some heated exchanges with several audience members toward the end of the session.

David Falk, an instructor of astronomy and the planetarium director at Los Angeles Valley College, discussed how astrology and astronomy work and examined the underpinnings of both - including his own understanding of astrology. 

Falk served as department chair of earth science at Valley College where he teaches Basic and Observational Astronomy. In his talk, he covered why astrology, which he classifies as a “pseudoscience,” remains popular in modern society.  

“Number one, people want to know the future. Number two, people want comfort in making sense of their decisions on what will happen. That’s what they want to believe in. Again, it goes back to human emotions,” Falk added. 
Falk also discussed the lack of a causal relationship between astrology and astronomy.
“They are going to say there’s some weird force out there that causes the star to indicate something? Why would that be? Why would the stars care what’s the link between the stars and us on earth?”  
The talk became controversial near the end. One audience member stood up and accused Falk of drawing wrong conclusions in a field he has little expertise in. She said she is not an astrologist, but went participated in the community and did some research by herself. 
“This is so wrong. You clearly know nothing about astrology. The stars don’t cause what will happen, but correlate with what will happen. So it’s not cause and effect,” the woman said.
Another audience member, Julie Desnick, was also frustrated by the talk. 
 “He drew the line that says astrology is completely wrong and gave stupid examples,” she said. “He shows barely related examples to make astrology look bad.”
However, most audience members found the talk to be both informative and compelling. 
One audience participant, Dom Stasy, said, “I think today is a beautiful, controversial and wonderful reflection on the public’s attitude towards science and what we called pseudoscience.”
The executive director of the Center for Inquiry, James Underdown, explained that astrology is more like a belief than science and compared astrology with Scientology. 
 “Scientology and astrology are not sciences. They like people to think they are, but it doesn’t adhere to the same rigorous checks and balances wthat science is. If you make a claim in science, anybody can challenge it and anybody can ask you for proof,” Underdown said. Scientology is widely recognized as a religion, and Underdown believes astrology should not be considered as a science as well. 
Underdown is also the founder and chairman of the Independent Investigations Group in Hollywood. The group offers a $100,000 prize to anyone who can prove the existence of paranormal ability under scientific testing conditions. Underdown said about 15 people have tried over the past 20 years, but nobody has yet to win the prize. 
On a related note, Underdown encouraged audience members who believe they can prove the connection between zodiac stars and personalities to participate in the challenge.
Reach staff reporter Jiawei Wang here or follow her on Twitter.


 

Buzz

Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.