And its biggest asset right now is public funding and court judgments.
Steve Fuller, agnostic sociologist at Warwick University (Britain) and author of Dissent over Descent, gives us an entertaining picture of astrology in the decades before its collapse that unmistakably echoes Darwinism today:
… in the four centuries that separated the early Oxford scholastics from Newton, astrology grew in secular importance, resulting in the field’s knowledge claims becoming “unfalsifiable,” the specific quality Popper attributed to pseudoscientific theories. In other words, astrologers refused to submit to a public test that might reveal a fundamental error in their theories.
[As in arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins refuses to debate, despite fellow Oxford atheist’s chastisement? ]
Their reasons are familiar to us today. When astrology was within the reach of only the powerful and was used to decide the timing of military campaigns, it was shrouded in secrecy for what we now call ‘national security reasons’. But starting in the 15th century, when astrologers moved into Europe’s emerging private sector, and personal horoscopes increasingly became their stock in trade, client confidentiality was cited as ground for refusing to release their track records.Nevertheless, as astrologers acquired status, they made greater claims to knowledge for their field. Many leading Renaissance intellectuals, including Ficino, Paracelsus and Pomponazzi, tried to leverage astrology’s historic significance and burgeoning clientele into a foundational role in the university medical curriculum. Like many enthusiasts for evolutionary biology in the medical profession today, they believed that astrology would finally render their ancient art a genuine science with a deep causal sense of the extent to which humanity’s well-being was embedded in the cosmos.
[Think evolutionary medicine., one of the biggest dead losses in the history of medicine.]
This turned out to be a step too far, placing astrology under much sharper critical scrutiny than ever before. Suddenly everyone was a Popperian avant la lettre. Challenges to astrology’s pretensions, even among fellow practitioners, became very public affairs which only served to cast doubt on the entire enterprise – even when astrologers were shown to have drawn valid conclusions.- Dissent over Descent, pp. 166-67
[Think Altenberg 16 = lots of fed-up evolutionary biologists.
Will Darwinism end up as the “evolutionary agony aunt” column somewhere for the eternally hopeful faithful, just as there is still a star scroll column in newspapers today? Seems like a fitting epitaph.