Asimov on pseudoscience

Isaac Asimov in 1983:

[Someone asked] quite aggressively, “Where do you stand on astrology?”
She could scarcely have read much of my writing without knowing the answer to the question, and so I gathered she wanted a fight. I didn’t, and so I contented myself with a minimal statement of my position and said, “I’m not impressed with it.”
She must have expected that, for she said at once, “Have you ever studied astrology?”
She felt safe in asking that, I suppose, for she undoubtedly knew that a hard-working science writer such as myself is constantly breaking his neck trying to keep up with legitimate science, and that I could scarcely devote much time to a painstaking investigation of each of the many fringe follies that infest the public.
I was tempted to say I had, of course, for I knew enough astronomy to know that astrological assumptions are ridiculous, and I have read enough of the writings of scientists who have studied astrology to know that no credence need be given to any part of it.
If, however, I said I was a student of astrology, she would have asked if I had read some nonsensical book by jackass number one, and some idiotic tome by jackass number two, and she would have nailed me as not only someone who hadn’t studied astrology, but who had lied about it.
So I said, with an amiable smile, “No.”
She said, promptly, “If you studied it, you might find that you would be impressed with it.”
Still responding minimally, I said, “I don’t think so.”
That was what she wanted. triumphantly, she said, “That means you are a narrow-minded bigot, afraid to shake your own prejudices by investigation.”
I should have shrugged, smiled, and walked away, but I found myself driven to a retort. I said, “Being human, miss, I suppose I do have a bit of bigotry about me, so I carefully expend it on astrology in order that I won’t be tempted to use it on anything with a shred of intellectual decency about it.” —And she stamped off angrily.
The problem, you see, was not that I had failed to investigate astrology; it was that she had failed to investigate astronomy adequately, so that she didn’t have a know how empty of content astrology was.
It is precisely because Americans to know no science, even though they may be well educated otherwise, that they so easily fall prey to nonsense.
They thus become part of the armies of the night, the purveyors of nitwittery, the retailers of intellectual junk food, the feeders on mental cardboard, for their ignorance keeps them from distinguishing nectar from sewage.


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