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IPCC, South Dakota And Astrological Retaliation (Who Let The Pols In?)

Much is being said about the incredibly innovative use of the English language (ha!) by South Dakota legislators, and especially the now-famous mention of “astrological…dynamics that can effect world weather phenomena” (I know, should have been “can affect”).

Politicians trying to legislate science, what a dumb idea, uh. Why, I am sure no serious scientist would advocate for scientific phenomena to be established by a United Nations Framework Convention.

And who could even imagine the horror of letting a whole field’s situation be assessed by a scientific body directly reporting to Governments

  1. cmb
    2010/03/10 at 17:47

    I could not find work on the position of the planets as related to weather or climate, but I did find a source for possible terrestrial magnetic field influence on tropospheric pressures near the poles. Since the sun influences Earth’s magnetic field, a small influence from the sun could be postulated.


    And, in fact, current AGW theory specifies that about 1/3 of change in atmospheric heating is related to solar activity, which should pretty much dwarf influences from the external gravitic flux.

    However, the recent spike in global temperatures coincides with a 50-year dip in the amount of solar irradiance reaching the surface, due largely to particulates. As we know from the anomalous temperature dip from the 1940s to the 1970s, this diminishes AGW effects, and creating more sulfate particulates has been suggested on many fronts as a geoengineering fix.


    Solar luminosity and climate change paper which also turned up:


  2. ScientistForTruth
    2010/03/02 at 18:27

    Actually ‘effect’ would be OK, depending on what they mean. If they mean these things are mere perturbators of weather phenomena then, yes, it would be ‘affect’; however, if this is a list of factors that can PRODUCE some world weather phenomena themselves, then ‘effect’ would be correct. I think that probably is what they do mean.

    As for ‘astrological’, I’ve read the smart Alec stuff from the AGW crowd as well, guffawing about supernaturalism and creationism. However, if the SD legislature mean that the alignment of the planets creates certain weather phenomena, then that might actually be right, since the alignment of the planets and sunspots are linked. Your post on Frederick Bailey’s findings would certainly support that. Thus the Met office don’t consider the sun or the moon or the planets, and so are woefully inaccurate in their long range forecasting, whereas Piers Corbyn does, and makes a much better fist of it.

    The traditional word for influences on the earth from the alignment and interaction of celestial bodies in the solar system is actually ‘astrology’ – it only has ‘unscientific’ connotations now because most scientists have forgotten about the close coupling of the systems in the solar system, and because the word has been exploited for psychic phenomena.

    I don’t like Wikipedia much but here is the preamble on their page on ‘Astrology’

    “Astrology…hold[s] that the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details can provide information about…terrestrial matters…Astrologers believe that the movements and positions of celestial bodies either directly influence life on Earth or correspond to events experienced on a human scale…In fact, astrology and astronomy were often indistinguishable before the modern era…Astronomy began to diverge from astrology after a period of gradual separation from the Renaissance up until the 18th century. Eventually, astronomy distinguished itself as the empirical study of astronomical objects and phenomena, without regard to the terrestrial implications of astrology.”

    A dictionary gives the meaning of Astrology as “The science of relationships as measured by correlations between the movements of celestial bodies and circumstances and events on earth.”

    So ‘Astrological’ is fine by me, since that’s obviously what was meant: the influence of celestial bodies on the weather and possibly climate (and, who knows, earthquakes, volcanoes…?) We should try to recover the word and rehabilitate it, especially as more and more of the weather does appear to be astrologically influenced.

    The word ‘astronomical’ is so misused these days that it just means ‘a big number’ in many contexts. And ‘astrophysical’, doesn’t necessarily have a terrestrial reference either – the only word I know that does, by definition, is ‘astrological’.

    So, the correct word for the study of the effects of celestial objects (Sun, planets etc) on earth is actually ‘astrology’, and ‘astronomy’ is the study of the objects themselves. Unfortunately the word carries a lot of other baggage these days. But, hey, these AGW fanatics should learn how to use a dictionary, and something about history and etymology before they make themselves look even more ridiculous and ignorant.

    • 2010/03/02 at 23:10

      ScientistForTruth – I find it unlikely that the authors of the SD pronouncement would go through the bother of figuring out what “astrology” might mean compared to “astronomy”, in general and in contemporary usage.

      • 2010/03/03 at 09:50

        Yes, you’re probably right Maurizio. And I can’t see the word ‘astrology’ being rehabilitated to its rightful place any time soon – too much superstitious baggage attached!

        I must say, though, until fairly recently, astronomers and meteorologists simply considered the celestial bodies to be ‘out there’ and have nothing to do with the world down here. Then we start to find that cosmic rays affect cloud, solar wind affects the amount of cosmic rays reaching the upper atmosphere, sunspots have a large effect on solar wind, and that sunspots are possibly initiated by the alignments of planets. Suddenly this is a very proper form of scientific investigation, and no longer the domain of superstition.

        It’s remarkable really considering that both Neptune and Pluto were discovered by calculating their effects on perturbing the orbit of Uranus. When the force that was keeping the solar system together (gravity) was also causing interactions between all the members of the solar system there was a lot more reason to believe that alignments of planets could have effects on earth than when it was superstition.

        It’s quite incredible really that more attention has not been paid to this. Galileo had interesting theories about the tides, but he did not suspect that it was due to an interaction between the earth, moon and sun. But for 300 years we have known the cause of tides, which is a large effect from a human perspective, yet we have really not bothered to investigate what other effects the solar system can be having on things like the weather. The jetstream is affected by the sun and moon, isn’t it? – and that has a huge effect on weather in north-west Europe.

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