“I don’t believe in life after death,” Natalie Angier wrote in the American Scholar two years ago, “but I’d like to believe in life before death. I’d like to think that one of these days we’ll leave superstition and delusional thinking and Jerry Falwell behind. Scientists would like that, too. But for now, they like their grants even more.”
Angier’s eloquent plaint is getting a second life on the Web thanks to Edge magazine. Her prize examples revealing how scientists malign some superstitions more than others were drawn from two installments of Cornell University’s “Ask an Astronomer” online feature.
On religion: “Modern science leaves plenty of room for the existence of God and that there are plenty of places where people who do believe in God can fit their beliefs in the scientific framework without creating any contradictions.”
On astrology: “Astronomers do not believe in astrology. It is considered to be a ludicrous scam. There is no evidence that it works, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. There is also no mechanism by which distant planets could possibly influence personalities.”
Logically, of course, it’s equally possible to find hidey-holes in the currently known universe for astrology, suitably interpreted. But the stars haven’t been aligned to get those believers’ hands on NSF funding.