We’re sitting outside a small bar hidden away in an alley downtown. I’m silently playing with the brim of my glass of whiskey as my date’s voice floods the background with diatribe. I chug more alcohol in an attempt to forget where I’m at, and I begin to ponder how I got involved with such an opinion-imposing personality. A fellow atheist and self-proclaimed skeptic, at that, was badgering me with pseudoscience on our first date.
He had asked me what sign I am. I sat there laughing for the better part of the following minute in which he stared me dead in the eye and made me realize he was being serious.
Shit hit the fan.
I decided to humor him. I let him know I’m a Pisces and he told me he was, too. He went on to rave about how we’re the best sign out there because we’re intuitive and empathetic, and that we should be super compatible. I wondered why it was that this guy was so sold on the idea that astrology is a legitimate thing when, by that point, my body language so obviously communicated that I wanted to punch him in the face? Shouldn’t the fish in him have perceived that?
I tried to get in a word about how skeptical I am about the subject. Whatever I did manage to sneak into this single sided conversation from hell only seemed to antagonize him further and with that his argument became more extensive, avid, and annoying. Condescendingly he said, “We’re seventy percent water. How can you think outer space doesn’t affect us if the moon affects the tide!?”
Now, I’m going to be completely honest here. I didn’t come prepared with my astrology notes for this three-ring circus of junk science. As a matter of fact, at the time, I didn’t know the first thing about science and astrology, and neither was I going to pretend that I did. So, being the good sport that I am, I sat there and listened to him explain that astrology had a high academic regard, that there’s plenty of evidence that supports its credibility, electromagnetic fields, yadda yadda…
Eventually, I went back home, snuggled with a giant glass of wine, and did my homework.
I learned that yes, we are about 80 percent water, but the moon only affects open bodies of water. That the moon doesn’t actually have a prominent gravitational pull on us. That if anyone thinks that there is more evidence that proves the veracity of astrology than that which disproves it they should consider:
– Shawn Carlson’s double-blind matching tests which proved natal astrology is no better than chance.
– Michel Gauquelin’s Mars effect, that suggests a correlation between the position of Mars during birth and athleticism, which could never be replicated and later research suggests the effect was caused by a selection bias.
– Karl Popper’s criterion of falsifiability used to distinguish science from non-science. (Like the existence of a deity, astrology cannot be falsified… Surprise.)
– Freakin’ Newtonian mechanics.
– This long ass list of evidence-based studies.
– Getting their heads out of their ass.
The positive take away from this insufferable date was that I’ve reinforced my principle of double checking “facts” before turning around and spitting them at the next poor soul that has the misfortune of bumping into me. I learned that most of what he said was probably based on a cognitive confirmation bias and that ultimately he was expecting me to swallow it because, like Mormons tearing at my door, he believed it to be true. Oh, and I also learned that some idiots are harder to spot than others.