Member of Parliament David Tredinnick is fast becoming a target for ridicule since he "came out" at the recent Glastonbury festival and announced that he thinks Astrology would be a good complement to real medicine and if used widely would reduce the burden on the NHS, a view that he confirmed in a BBC interview. Tredinnick is well known for his views on pseudo-science, being a fan of Homoeopathy and herbalism, in the immortal words of Tim Minchin we already have a term for "alternative medicine" that has been proven to actually work it's called "medicine". If you're looking for a succinct and humorous response to this silly man then look no further than the good Beaker folk over in Husborne Crawley.
Astrology is of course complete poppycock (to use a scientific term); anthropomorphic nonsense invented at a time when our species didn't even know that the Earth revolved around the Sun. In fact, in 3000 BC, when Astrology was invented (approx.) we didn't even know what stars and planets were let alone how they influence our chances of meeting tall dark strangers or developing irritable bowels. It's quaint how ancient peoples used their imaginations make up stories to explain things that were, in their era, otherwise inexplicable. Coincidently I've been away on holiday with my family for the last couple of weeks and one of the places we visited was Yosemite national park in California, USA (highly recommended!). One night we attended a talk on the stars. We joined a group of other tourists and all went out into an empty meadow, lay on our backs and looked up at the night sky.
The night sky in Yosemite is staggering (see picture below), the light pollution is practically zero and the sky was clear enough to see the milky way (something really hard to see in the populated SE of England).
The talk was fairly simplistic (from a science point of view) and slightly "new-age" in that the presenter focused on many of the myths and legends about the constellations from the Greeks to the Romans through to more modern interpretations from native Americans, all very poetic and quaint but in terms of utility complete poppycock (Ursa Major is a grizzly bear with a saddle - really?). Like Astrology, which rests upon such ancient stories, they are of no use whatsoever in predicting the future or assisting in healthcare, if they were we'd all be mega-rich and living to 200 by now.
The coolest thing about the talk (apart from the view itself) was that our presenter used a powerful green laser to point out various objects in the sky, I'd never seen this done before and it was really impressive. What became clear to any reasonable person listening was that the universe is vast beyond our everyday comprehension and Science, specifically Cosmology, has allowed us to understand an unprecedented amount about what it's all made of and how it works, a truly awe inspiring feat bearing in mind that pretty much everything we see is beyond our ability to study directly because it's too far away. The real poetry and power of our appreciation of the stars is in our ability to reason about what we observe and figure out what is really going on and not simply fantasize about them. The fact that we are all made from atoms forged in the nuclear furnaces of stars like the ones we see in the night sky means that we are all inextricably and directly linked to the universe and unlike our general fascination with dot-to-dot puzzles this is, in some sense, a truly "spiritual" fact about us. I'd call it a "spiritual fact" not because it's in any way supernatural but because it transcends our individual, petty, parochial needs and disagreements and gives us all a kinship that if we took more care to understand might make our brief existence more fulfilling and relegate our reliance on the various "imagined" crutches of destiny, Gods and spirits in the sky to the past. Of course there's plenty that we don't understand yet about our Universe, dark energy for instance, but for some of us that's a positive thing, a challenge, something to aim for, real purpose. So, rather than filling these voids with childish imaginings of giant animals in the sky we should relish our opportunity to discover reality, and put aside childish things.