The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science

TheHereticsAuthor Will Storr takes the reader on an extraordinarily human and personal journey as he asks the question: “Why do obviously intelligent people believe things in spite of the evidence against them?”. This is one of the most original and thought-provoking books I have read for some time, it really is quite brilliant.

There are many unpredictable twists and turns. Throughout the book, Storr encounters a wide range of colourful characters and belief systems on his travels. A Creationist minister, homeopaths, Holocaust denier David Irving, and Skeptics themselves are just some of the cast of characters. The author is skeptical about everything – including his own skepticism. “My work has taught me that the truth is always nuanced; that outrage is mostly born of misunderstanding and that, sometimes, black really can be white.”

There is a flavour of the investigative journalist Louis Theroux and, for those who remember him, the late Robert Anton Wilson. A rational and scientific approach is mixed with personal memoir, an open mind and a great sense of humour. Whatever your beliefs and views on the superiority of a scientific approach to knowledge, this book can not fail to shake you up a bit! Genius.

Proof before belief

Taken from Stephen Arroyo’s “Chart Interpretation Handbook”

After twenty-five years, I am still waiting to meet someone who has investigated serious astrology for themselves first hand, and not come to the conclusion that there is a large amount of demonstrable truth involved.

Of course there are millions of people who don’t believe in astrology. When I first became seriously interested in 1986, I did not believe in it. I still don’t, as such. Someone saying they “believe” or don’t “believe” in astrology is missing the point really – it’s not a religion! Perhaps it is a “belief system” of sorts – at the same time, serious astrology is based firmly on observation. This careful definition by astrologer Robert Currey as good as any:-

“Astrology is the study of the correlation between the positions and movements of celestial bodies and life and physical processes on Earth. Though some astrologers work with stars and constellations, western astrologers work with the Sun, the Moon and the planets (including Pluto) within the Solar System. This is not Sun-Sign astrology that you read in newspapers and magazines. Astrology should not be confused with fortune telling, psychic reading, palmistry or tarot reading.”

Many scientists and rational sceptics happily dismiss astrology (or more accurately, what they believe astrology to be) for any number of reasons. As it happens, my (admittedly limited) scientific background played a part in developing my passion for astrology. I could see very quickly that there was and is way too much evidence from first hand observation to ignore. 

These issues are explored in great depth at Why it is no longer acceptable to say astrology is rubbish on a scientific basis by Robert Currey.