Fame and Fortune

I may have mentioned before on this weblog that I'm not a great fan of the paranormal, belief in UFOs and other such hocus pocus. So when I read an article in Metro, one of my home country's biggest newspapers (distributed for free), about some astrologer, I felt the need to protest in some way. She cast the horoscope of the reporter, who was amazed at the results. So was I, but not in the same way. So, on a whim, I decided to e-mail a response.

Metro on 7 September fills a whole page with a story about astrologer Hanneke Lageman, who cast the horoscope of reporter John van Schagen and drew some shocking conclusions: this employee of the biggest newspaper in Holland is someone who "determines his own destiny and takes initiative himself." He also loves justice (something most people, after all, dislike) and has "a strong urge to achieve something special." It's amazing.
How can someone with common sense believe that the way in which heavenly bodies move through the cosmos has anything to do with our characters? A new planet has recently been discovered in our solar system; did Ms. Lageman take that into account in her calculations?
If this journalist were a real skeptic, he would have come up with a waterproof test. Why not, for example, turn things around: Van Schagen (or rather, a complete stranger) tells what kind of person he is, and Ms. Lageman guesses his sign. Or, submit a wrong birth date and check if the horoscope is still correct. Astrologers, with or without a diploma, are consistently exposed as frauds with these kinds of tests.
I understand that in summertime, when there isn't much to report, you need to fill your newspaper, but why not then interview a skeptic (from the Skepsis Foundation for example) instead of legitimizing nonsense?
To my surprise, the entire letter was published in the paper the next day! Deciding to open the door when opportunity came a-knockin', I forwarded the epistle to James Randi ("The Amazing Randi"), a magician and skeptic who awards $1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal powers under controlled test conditions. Sure enough, I got a reply and here we go, I'm in this week's newsletter.
Howevers, rumors that I will soon be hosting a national talk show about skepticism are exaggerated. Unfortunately.

Posted by cronopio at 01:11 PM, September 16, 2005