Monday, June 26, 2006

Comparing Creationist Apples To Astrological Oranges

[Time to shamelessly steal a page from the DAS playbook, and do a (modified) comment whoring of my words at The Politburo Diktat. It's a sincere form of flattery...]

Who would dare compare the academic scourge of Intelligent Design with the whimsical silliness of astrology? Don't turn around (uh oh!), Der Commissar's in town:

Does the Left have a segment of their base that believes a certain pseudo-science, a segment their leaders are reluctant to antagonize? Is astrology quietly acceptable within the “progressive” community? The Left takes great pleasure in bashing Republican Creationists and ID advocates (quite appropriately, and I join them in this, as my readers know).


I think a little distancing would be in order, from the Left’s “Defenders of Science.” (If they have in the past, I’d be delighted to correct this post.) Update: Nor do I suggest that any of these guys “buy into astrology,” rather it has been perhaps unimportant and inconvenient to take a stand on. “Why rock the boat? We’ve got the granolas on board …”

I'm fairly certain that I'm not one of "the Left's 'Defender's of Science'" to which Commissar is referring. We're a small outfit here at A Beginner's Mind. That said, I think this kind of argument via Straw man fallacy has become so common with conservatives that it's almost impossible to escape.

In answer to Commissar's first question, I say "Yes", there probably is a segment of the progressive movement comprised of astrology believers. In fact, I know several folks whom I'd consider Leftist astrology fans. Maybe not "believers" but fans, nonetheless. That may be a very small segment, but it's a segment still. However, I've never seen anything in our political discourse to indicate that public policy decisions were being made in an effort to woo these kinds of voters. A person's belief in astrology has never really been much of an issue at any level of political activism in which I've participated. It's only the Republicans that feel the need to kowtow before the most fringe elements of their religious base and actively seek their approval. You won't see a Constitutional Amendment to ban Aquarian Senators coming from the Left anytime soon (though God knows we need to stop those moody bastards!)

As to Commissar's second question, my answer is certainly "Yes". There are many, many communities of folks being quietly (or not so quietly) accepted within the progressive community. That's why we're the progressive community, after all. We recognize the value and importance of diversity. Of course, with that acceptance comes the tacit agreement that evangelizing anyone's particular beliefs in an unwanted manner is unacceptable. I certainly embrace as many astrologers in the progressive movement as would like to be in it, so long as they don't try and convert me to their mysticism. Personal beliefs run a huge spectrum but don't preclude a community coming together to fight for higher ideals. Unless, of course, that community is conservative, where the members had better not be too brown, too gay, too atheist, too poor...well, you get the idea.

I further reject the idea that we on the Left need to "distance" ourselves from the astrology fans that find common cause with us in the progressive movement. I really don't care if they plan their lives based on their current view of certain stars and planets, so long as they're willing to stand up for civil rights, equality and peace. Those are what matter to me, not some archaic system of prognostication.

The real meat of this false equivalency is the idea that somehow having folks who believe in astrology as part of the progressive movement makes liberals the ideological equivalent of conservative creationists. Perhaps in the most tenuous of ideological comparisons that might almost be true, though again I think it ultimately fails in light of the Right's rigidity of enforced belief among its ranks. However, when examined in terms of political clout and social impact, the comparison between Lefty astrologers and wingnut Creationists becomes completely absurd. Progressive astrologers are not attempting to have astronomy replaced by astrology in public schools as an attempt to "teach the controversy". I've yet to see a progressive politician advocate for astrology in the way that President Bush has advocated for Intelligent Design creationism. I don't see any Leftist astrological organizations with the kind of political influence over the Democratic party that the Discovery Institute or The 700 Club exerts over the Republicans. In short, while one is a cornerstone of conservative political policy, if not always ideology (damned libertarian exception), the other is a bit of entertaining fluff found in the comics section of the local newspaper.

Personally, I think astrology is silly, though I do still read my horrorscope from time to time. I get a chuckle out of predictions about my randy love life or soon-to-blossom financial future. But Creationism, due to its political and financial support, is no laughing matter. It's a damaging policy of anti-intellectualism that attempts to subvert our understanding of the universe and undermine our educational institutions. There is no equivalency between the two pseudo-sciences, in terms of social impact and popular acceptance.

Perhaps, if the astrology believers become too militant, we liberals will concern ourselves with the pseudo-scientific speck in our eye. But only after conservatives deal with the fundamentalist log in their's...

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