In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

All in the Stars

David Tredinnick has suggested that astrology can assist the National Health Service. (Edited: NASA)

David Tredinnick has suggested that astrology can assist the National Health Service. (Edited: NASA)

Blinded by the intellectual flare of the Enlightenment and Newtonian mechanics, astrology now flickers like a star in cold space. Speaking to the Astrological Journal, David Tredinnick MP (Conservative, Bosworth) opined:

People who opposed what I say are usually bullies who have never studied astrology. They never look at it. They are absolutely dismissive. Astrology may not be capable of passing double-blind tests but it is based on thousands of years of observation.

Elected a member of the Health Select Committee, Mr Tredinnick said to the House of Commons:

In 2001, I raised in the House the influence of the moon, on the basis of the evidence then that at certain phases of the moon there are more accidents. Surgeons will not operate because blood clotting is not effective and the police have to put more people on street.

Lunar effects may be effulgent in our minds, but beyond confirmation bias and illusory correlation, literature reviews cannot find the lunacy. An American Psychological Association meta-analysis from 1985 found: “Results of effect-size estimates show that phases of the moon accounted for no more than 1% of the variance”. Similarly, an 1988 critical review of studies on lunar phases and birth-rates suggested most studies report “negative results, and the positive results contradict each other”. An earlier review, entitled The Moon was Full and Nothing Happened, found supposed correlations between between the full moon and nighttime traffic accidents were due to the disproportionate number of full and new-moons during the weekend.

A single paper in 2012 has found that the lunar cycle may influence sleep patterns, but this has not been independently retested. Another lone paper found an association between the number of admissions related to gastrointestinal bleeding and nights of the full moon, but the high variability of admissions means interpretations of this paper are limited.

Superstition, Ignorance and Prejudice

In the same speech, Mr Tredinnick continued:

The opposition is based on what I call the SIP formula – superstition, ignorance and prejudice. It tends to be based on superstition, with scientists reacting emotionally, which is always a great irony. They are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced too, which is troubling.

Mr Tredinnick says opposition to astrology is founded upon “superstition, ignorance and prejudice”, but that’s what astrology is driven by. As Mr Tredinnick helpfully noted, astrology failed double-blind studies, stunting its claimed power. The mechanism by which “a strong 6th house”, however defined, would imply “an emphasis on being a servant of the people” is unclear.

At its heart, astrology seeks to predict human behaviour. (Source: Remko van Dokkum)

At its heart, astrology seeks to predict human behaviour. (Source: Remko van Dokkum)

As a study of human behaviour, astrology has been superseded by psychology. As a study of the heavenly spheres, astrology has been superseded by astronomy.

In Dilution

In defence of homeopathy, Mr Tredinnick said in that Commons speech:

A letter was sent to the World Health Organisation warning against the use of homeopathy, but it ignored the very clear randomised, double-blind trials that proved that it is effective in the particular area of childhood diarrhea on which it was criticised.

By 2003, a ‘meta-analysis’ of homeopathic treatments for childhood diarrhea combined the results of three studies by the same author, which would be the trials that Mr Tredinnick was referring to. A systematic review of homeopathic medicine found:

The evidence for attention-deficit/hyperactivity and acute childhood diarrhea is mixed, showing both positive and negative results for their respective main outcome measures.

When folklore and superstition ferments within the electorate, such ideas — like destinies being writ in stars — will persist to the green benches.



This entry was posted on March 4, 2015 by in National Politics and tagged .
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