The fault is not in our stars: Britain’s love for pseudoscience

In a conclusion so inevitable one almost wonders why the task was ever embarked upon, a recent study has declared that there is no discernible evidence, whatsoever, that homeopathy works as an effective treatment beyond the capabilities of any placebo. This announcement, I imagine, was shortly followed by the startling revelation that the Pope is Catholic. The report looked at 57 systematic reviews that contained 176 individual studies focusing on 68 different health conditions and found that, at best, homeopathy can sometimes have a ‘placebo effect’ upon people, but nothing more than that.

Homeopathy, like astrology, is pseudo-scientific nonsense that, for some fatuous reason or another, thousands if not millions of people in Britain actually believe to be true. Every day, the national newspapers pay someone to carry out what is perhaps the easiest job in the world: write a horoscope. Apart from the fact that it has been repeatedly demonstrated that people will often believe that any horoscope is about them if you inform them, even falsely, that it has been attributed to their zodiac sign, the actual ‘science’ behind astrology (an arguably loose use of the term) is untrue or otherwise incorrect.

There is, of course, no evidence at all to even hint that the movement of planets has any effect on the behavior and life choices of individuals, and, moreover, the view of the night sky used to inform astrologers is based on what was seen thousands of years ago in the Middle East. As such, it is now largely inaccurate; being based on a Ptolemaic view of the solar system that paced Earth at the center, a change in the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis has put Ptolemy’s zodiac out by 23 degrees. For example, many people who are Virgos aren’t actually born under Virgo at all, and if you are born between March 21st and April 19th, you’re said to be an Aries regardless of the fact that between March 11th and April 18th the Sun is actually in the constellation Pisces.

Despite all of this, many people still take astrology seriously. There is undoubtedly one or two people, at the very least, you know who will regularly share on social media a post purporting to outline the various attributes attached to certain zodiac signs or the things that people born under particular constellations are likely to accomplish.

There are a great many deep and serious problems this world faces that we cannot immediately fix. But, at least on the stiff upper-lipped island we inhabit, we could win some small victories by ridding ourselves of this infatuation with the nonsensical. The planet’s starting to boil, the Middle East is in perpetual war, the economy is stagnating and Trump might end up with the nuclear launch codes. But at least we can acknowledge that the position of Venus will not decide whether I get a job or whether I fall in love and that ‘homeopathic medicine’ is a fool’s term for water.

Liam Kerrigan

Image courtesy of Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

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