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A Chair of Astrology?
Predictions about the Sophia Centre made by academics in 1999

Abstract -- In 1998 an anonymous benefactress bequeathed a million pounds to help establish a Chair of Astrology at a British university. The project was called the Sophia Project after the Greek for wisdom, and its aim was a degree course that would teach astrology in the same way as existing astrology schools did while avoiding their disagreement on content. Unfortunately the disagreement could not be avoided, the mandatory academic rigour did not exist, and in any case the cost was beyond Sophia's means. So in 2002 the Sophia Project had to settle for the Sophia Centre at Bath Spa University, the first British academic centre for studying cultural astronomy and astrology. At the Sophia Centre everything about astrology is fair game but not teaching it, testing it, or questioning its factual validity. In effect astrology is not required to have a real effect in the world, and is worthy of study only because many people believe in it. This subterfuge has swept astrology's problems under the carpet and made it academically respectable. But evidently not respectable enough, for in April 2006 Bath Spa University announced that the Sophia Centre would not be accepting any more students and would be closing. In September 2007 the Sophia Centre moved to the University of Wales at Lampeter, where from January 2008 it would again be accepting students, but only for distance learning. In this article the views in 1999 of two dozen academics and a think-tank of astrologers are summarised and further illustrated by examples from chiropractic, nursing, and parapsychology, and from seven universities (Birkbeck, Edinburgh, Exeter, Hertfordshire, Leicester, Southampton, and York in Canada). The academics predicted that only by abandoning science and the teaching of astrology, and by retreating to the humanities, could astrology be made academically acceptable, and even then only within an existing school. Their predictions turned out to be essentially correct. An appendix gives three media articles on astrology entering academia.

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