Exposing PseudoAstronomy

June 27, 2009

Astrologer Arrested in Sri Lanka for Predicting President’s Ejection

Filed under: astrology — Stuart Robbins @ 10:28 am
Tags: , , , ,


This is what blogging is all about – responding to current news, and offering my own never-humble opinion about said news. But, this is really only one out of a half dozen or so posts on current news items. Alas.

Anyway, this post is about this BBC News article, “Sri Lanka Astrologer Is Arrested.”

I have so far avoided writing any posts – save my 2009 predictions – about astrology, since that’s a whole different can of worms than what I’ve addressed so far and would require significant background research on my part that I have not already done. But, I can still respond to current news on the subject.

News Article

Sri Lanka is a relatively small country in the Indian Ocean, just off the eastern coast of India. It boasts a population of about 20.2 million people. The country’s government is a “Democratic Socialist Republic,” meaning that it is fairly democratic, but the politics lean towards socialism. The current president is Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Of interest to this blog, the country is one of several in the world where the pseudoscience of astrology – the belief that the stars and planets can and do govern our personalities and world and local events – is taken very seriously on the national stage. It is taken so seriously that many of Sri Lanka’s politicians have their own personal astrologers to tell them when to do anything important (does this ring a bell for anyone regarding Nancy Reagan?). This includes the president. And that’s what got Chandrasiri Bandara arrested.

Bandara “announced last week that the government would flounder in September and October because of political and economic problems. … [He] told an opposition meeting that the prime minister would take over as president on 9 September and the opposition leader would become prime minister.” This is despite the president’s high approval ratings and the president’s victory against the Tamil Tigers, which brought an end to almost 26 years of civil war.

As a result, he was arrested on Wednesday, June 24, to “investigate the basis of his prediction,” according to police.

One may ask what the basis is of his prediction. The answer: He “predicted that a planetary change on 8 October will be inauspicious for parliament and the government may not be able to contain rising living costs – a forecast which correspondents say has already been made by private economists.”

What’s Wrong with This Picture

I have three basic problems with this. The first is that this guy got arrested for saying something that everyone else already says. I don’t think the government arrested every economist who made the same forecast.

The second problem I have with this is – even if astrology were true – this is a basic freedom of speech issue where, at least in most Western countries, would be covered fully.

The third is that astrology is not a science. There is no physical reason for any of its fundamental ideas to hold true (how can a random collection of stars that looks one way only from a certain vantage point in the universe have any sway over someone’s personality?). It has never made predictions about things at above-chance level that could not have been predicted by looking at real trends (such as in the case with Mr. Bandara). And yet, a man was arrested for it because he has predicted the downthrow of a government. If every person in America who predicted the downthrow of its government were arrested, our prison system would likely hold well over a quarter of the country’s population.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, this guy should have been ignored. If nothing else, perhaps ridiculed. Or, if nothing better, perhaps it should have been pointed out that this guy is following what the economists are saying and is probably going for a fairly likely “hit” while adding his own political bias.

Oh, and I guess I’ll take the really low-hanging fruit: If he’s an astrologer and predict all this stuff, he really should’ve seen this coming.

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