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“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

-Carl Sagan

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”

-Leo Tolstoy

 

I will be addressing the SOTA Astrology Conference a little over a week from now on the subject of what skeptics get wrong about astrology (and what we as astrologers can do about it). I’ve been reviewing my notes on the matter (CLICK HERE if you didn’t read about my problem with The James Randi Educational Foundation, HERE for the details, and HERE for the challenge they never accepted to defend their own chicanery. It’s a shame that switching to the new Disqus format lost literally hundreds of comments from skeptics, but let me summarize almost all of them: YOU’RE A NUT BECAUSE WE SAY SO. Hey, love you guys too, okay?) and I decided that I might as well come out and tell you my very own story of paranormal weirdness. Sure, I’m a professional astrologer, but that doesn’t mean I’ll believe any crazy old thing that comes along. I once had a sign on my desk that said “I am skeptical about astrology. That’s because I have Saturn in Pisces in the Ninth House.”

But, no matter how rational we want to be or think we are, there’s always that Weird Thing that doesn’t neatly file into how we want to view the world. So, here’s my Weird Thing.

***

I gave up on being able to wear a watch a long time ago. It’s a common enough phenomenon: you’ve probably heard of the kind of thing before. It’s one of those strange phenomena that nearly everyone has heard of, or is familiar with, and yet nothing (so far as I can tell) has ever been done to dig further into the matter, scientifically. How would you even start?

We are all prone to The Tolstoy Effect. We expect to see things work a certain way, therefore we do see things work a certain way. The most intellectually dishonest skeptic and the most rigorously scientific astrologer have that in common. This doesn’t just apply to what we call “the paranormal” either.

Consider the phenomenon of “spontaneous remission.” Almost no research has been done into it. Logically, it’s easiest to assume that if a diagnosed incurable illness goes away on its own, the diagnosis is wrong. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if (as one study discovered) only about one in ten cases of spontaneous remission are even reported in the first place. If you were a doctor, would you want to report you might have given a patient a death sentence by accident? It’s best we just be quietly thankful and then change the subject.

And yet lots of medical professionals out there have seen it happen. “The other doctors may have bungled their diagnoses, but not me. I went over the test results repeatedly, and yet…”

In my case, I’ve spent most of my life expecting electronics to fail at a higher rate than they appear to for the average person. Clocks, microwaves, computers, telephones… they all have an unfortunate tendency to not merely break down, but behave erratically around me spontaneously. This is far from an everyday thing with me, but when I am under stress, the phenomenon (string of coincidences?) is dramatically amplified.

As a long-term chronic insomniac, I’ve had the opportunity to have more than one CAT scan and EEG done on myself. If you’ve never had either, let me tell you: they are more uncomfortable than they look on TV. And every time I’ve had one of those tests done, I’ve gotten pretty stressed out. And every time, I get to hear some variation on those magic words: “Um, sorry, we’re having some trouble with the equipment….”

If I was going to blame this on something in my birth chart, I’d blame it on my strongly-aspected natal Uranus-Pluto conjunction. All I can tell you for sure is that when there is a major transit squaring or opposing or conjunct that point in my chart the problem gets worse. At (coincidentally, I’m sure) one point a few years ago when that Uranus-Pluto conjunction of mine was being heavily stressed by transits, my records vanished from the Government’s systems. Darn. If only I had a criminal record to cover up! Inconvenient electromagnetic phenomena have been following me most of my life. It’s only relatively recently that I have reluctantly come to terms with it.

So remember: the next time you think you see a ghost, or a UFO, or have a sudden precognitive flash that something is going to happen (and then it does)… remember: the simplest solution to any given situation is usually the best.

The problem with that, of course, is that sometimes the simplest explanation is just plain crazy. Also: just because you’re crazy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong.

That, and if there really is such a thing as “mutant super-powers”… why couldn’t I have at least gotten a useful one?

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