Anthropology carbon dating
But it is relatively cheap, fills a need, and seems to work. Thus astrological ideas have undeniable beauty and appeal, they can feed the inner person in much the same way that music, poetry and art do, they meet our need to conform and yet feel unique, they provide reassuring structure in a chaotic world, the birth chart is nonjudgemental, the interpretation is non-falsifiable, astrologers tend to be nice people, and in a dehumanised society astrology provides ego support at a very low price. Where else can you get this sort of thing these days?
In short, this explanation says that astrology has value because it seems to have its priorities right. It can give the feeling of understanding our place within the whole. The same applies to religion and pop psychology in all their forms, even though they often disagree and cannot all be right.
Note how this explanation does not require astrology to be true, and how our explanations of value have nothing archeology and carbon dating to do with the explanations of truth surveyed in Part 2.
But this anthropology dating sidesteps an interesting question -- if astrology is actually untrue, why has it lasted for more than 2000 years? Can we really believe that "filling a need and seeming to work" was enough to carry astrology during its falls from grace? After all, beliefs such as phrenology that filled a need, seemed to work, and were even more popular than astrology, are nevertheless now defunct. It is here that meme theory may be relevant.
Memes are any kind of information (ideas, skills, stories) that is copied from person to person. Like genes, memes are replicators, and both compete selfishly to be copied whenever they can. It is this focus on replication that gives meme theory its explanatory power.
Meme theory is still new and controversial but it successfuly explains many human attributes that are otherwise difficult to explain such as our capacity for language (Blackmore 1999, 2002).
A memeplex is a group of memes that are passed on together. Memeplexes form whenever a meme can replicate better as part of a group than it can on its own. The most successful memeplexes are those that supply untestable explanations for human predicaments (why are archaeological carbon dating we here?), and include reinforcing tricks such as coercion (wrongdoers are punished), reduction of fear (believers will be saved), altruism (good people believe), and dogma (this explanation is The Truth). There is clearly a good match here with any religion, and with astrology and divination.
Blackmore (1999:182-184) points out that clients pick up lots of memes during a chart reading. For example the reader has special powers that the client does not have; the system holds ancient mysteries that cannot be tapped by unbelievers; it reveals the connections between you and the universe and unfolds your destiny; it reveals the real you and puts you in touch with your higher nature. Blackmore (who in her early days had a reputation of being an excellent Tarot reader) comments:
"These memes are successful because they seem to explain the client's experience and include all the right tricks. The fear they prey on is the fear of uncertainty and of making the wrong decisions in a horribly complex world. People typicaly go to psychics when they are their lowest ebb and want guidance.
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