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Self-Defence / Case for Astrology
Two militant books self-destruct

Geoffrey Dean

An expanded version of a book review in Skeptical Inquirer 1993, 18, 42-49, and (in a Dutch translation by Wim van Dam) Astrologie in Onderzoek 1993, 8(1), 48-53. In a postscript to the Dutch version, van Dam notes his wholehearted agreement with most of the review, except on four points in the second half, to which Dean then responds. These exchanges are included below, in smaller type, as they arise.

Astrology's Complete Book of Self-Defence. By Robert Parry. Quantum (an imprint of Foulsham), Slough UK 1990. 224 pages. Paper, £7.95.

The Case for Astrology. By John Anthony West. Viking Penguin, 1991. 527 pages. Cloth, 20.00 $US22.95 $Can29.95; paper (1992), £8.99 $Can15.99.

Abstract -- In these two books a pro-astrology author strikes back at non-believers. The blurb on Parry's book promises "a carefully argued defence against all possible attack" based on "great depth of research". The blurb on West's hardcover book says "Sceptics will never lightly dismiss astrology again", while on the paperback version Colin Wilson calls it "The most serious and important study of astrology ever written". The implication is that convincing new evidence in support of astrology will be revealed. What actually happens is the selective reporting of dated studies with a relentless blind eye for crucial issues. Parry identifies 12 main attacks on astrology (eg sun sign astrology is nonmsense, tropical signs ignore precession), of which 7 are also identified by West, who adds 5 more (eg the sun cannot affect our consciousness, astrology cannot predict mass deaths). Both authors attempt to refute these attacks with varying degrees of success. But the real problems arise when the authors cite evidence to allow astrology to fight back. Parry's evidence is seriously out of date (much had been overturned even when it was written), and West deliberately suppresses negative evidence because the details "do not really concern us". As a result both books perpetuate confusion and error, and neither book contributes towards a balanced assessment of astrology. 13 references.

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