India Uncut

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Astrology and the confirmation bias

The astrologers strike again. IANS reports:
Call it superstition, planetary influences or maybe just plain political sense, an overwhelming number of astrologers across the country have forecast mid-term elections and said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government would not run its five-year course.

But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's star is bright and most astrologers have given him the thumbs up saying that his honesty and stature would be mostly unaffected.

This reminds me of that charlatan (which astrologer isn't?) called Lachman Das Madan, a man widely respected by many, including the BJP, who had predicted in June last year that the UPA government would fall by September 26 (last year) and Narendra Modi was also on his way out. See what happened.

So why do people still believe in astrology then? Well, it's because of the confirmation bias – the tendency to take into account only the evidence that confirms our beliefs, while ignoring everything else. So if you have already decided that you believe in astrology, then you will only notice the times you favourite astrologer gets something right, and will rationalise away the other times. Take the predictions that have been made in the article I linked to earlier: between them they cover every possibility, and some of those guys are bound to get it right. Viola, they'll go, we can read what's in the stars.

Astrologers, like cows, are a subject much ignored by most Indian bloggers – but not me. Read more here, here and here.
amit varma, 6:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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