Considering absurd hypotheticals can still be valuable. Consider this ridiculous question from a site with the tautological title, “Astrology or Superstition?” :
“Would it be unethical to use astrology to gain advantage over someone in the work environment?”
Obviously not, because astrology is a crock. But if it were not a crock, what would the answer to this question be?
It raises several ethical issues. The easiest: since an astrologer could do an individual’s chart using publicly available information, this is no more unethical than reading an individual’s blog, researching his or her career on-line or interviewing former colleagues. The hypothetical also implicates the “superpowers problem.” If you had Superman’s X-ray vision or the power to read minds, would it be ethical to use them to see what kind of underwear your boss wears, or to gain an advantage in negotiations? The principle at stake here is fairness, and the Golden Rule. One should not, without permission, violate areas that an individual reasonably believes are private using either technological means or super powers.
Does that principle also apply to specialists in body language, like the crime-solving heroes of TV’s “The Mentalist” and “Lie to Me”? I don’t think it makes sense to lump the use of acquired skills with super powers. Is it unethical to apply unusually well-developed judgment, instinct, wisdom, courage, persuasion skills or analytical ability to interpersonal relationships? Clearly not. Patrick Jane belongs on this side of the ethical line, not with Clark Kent looking under Lois Lane’s brassiere. Astrology, then, as an acquired discipline, belongs on the ethical side too—that is, if it weren’t also in the same category as reading chicken bones, phrenology, and faith healing.
The remaining ethics alarm in the question is sounded by the suspicious phrase, “gain advantage over.” If this means “take advantage,” that is an inherently unethical motivation, and even an ethical means, like a skill in hypothetical astrology that isn’t poppycock, shouldn’t be used for an unethical objective. If, however, the questioner means merely “Is it unethical to use my special skill to excel at work?”, then there is nothing wrong with that at all.
That just about covers everything, except for this: When one encounters adults of undamaged brain who believe in astrology and make more use of it in their life’s decisions than they do fortune cookies, the fair, respectful and kind thing to do is to make a good faith effort to explain why they should stop immediately. One has the same obligation when one encounters someone who says the Holocaust never happened, that the world is only 10,000 years old, that Elvis is alive, that gay people are corrupting America or that the Bush Administration was behind the World Trade Center attacks. Ignorance, paranoia and superstition are all contagious, and we each have an ethical obligation to try to contain the plagues.
7 thoughts on “Astrology Ethics”
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But Elvis IS ALIVE*.
*In our hearts.
This would work better if I could change the font size, like those car commercials.
As Johnny Carson said, if the world was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators dead.
I agree that it’s important to challenge people when they make such claims though.
I find it endless astonishing how passionately some people want to believe that the Bush administration was behind 9/11,
Don’t get me wrong, I think he should be tried for war crimes, but there’s a huge difference between Roosevelt allowing Pearl Harbour
than a sitting president organizing an attack on a civilian target in order to justify a war.
Nina: the theory that FDR “allowed” Pearl Harbor is pretty much discredited. No question: he wanted the US in the war, and was right about that. But even the Japanese diplomats who were in DC were blindsided by the attack. Had there been many warnings that such an attack could take place? Yes, and that was part of the problem. Anyway, Roosevelt would have been certifiable to allow the attack to occur the way it did—it was just luck that it wasn’t even more devastating than it was. And while FDR was many things, good and bad, crazy wasn’t one of them. It’s not quite as offensive a theory as the Truthers’, but its close.
The Japanese diplomats in DC were not blindsided. They were still debating the wording on the announcement they were supposed to give the US government of the attack a few minutes before it happened (so it wouldn’t be a surprise attack). FDR didn’t know, because they didn’t get the announcement delivered in time.
Blindsided was the wrong word—thanks. My point was that the timing of the attack even took them by surprise. Everyone knew an attack on Pearl Harbor could happen at some point; for many reasons, not all of them logical, we didn’t think it would come when it did, and were unprepared.
I agree 100%, as usual, about both astrology (don’t get me started about Ophiucus but peek at
if you’re curious) and FDR’s connection with Pearl Harbor. File both in the Loony Bin.
What is probably more surprising to most younger people, in this age of radar, satellite photos, long-distance air flights, GPS systems, scientific satellites, buoys, and other information-gathering techniques is that in 1941 a fleet of 6 aircraft carriers, 420 airplanes, 2 battleships, 11 destroyers, 23 submarines, 8 tankers, and all their support vessels could sail over 4000 miles from Japan to Hawaii in 12 days and have absolutely no one notice.
Time marches on.