Today, in AP Human Geography, more people of different cultures presented information about their food, culture, religion, clothing, etc. I remembered something Adrika had put some pictures of Bollywood stars on her presentation when she presented before Thanksgiving. We had been discussing which Bollywood star(s) she should put on her slide show. One of the options was John Abraham, who is apparently considered hot by the majority of the (female) population of India. This reminded me of my cousin’s cousin (what’s the technical term for that? Second cousin? Second cousin once removed? I am confused), who lives in India. His favorite actor was John Abraham, and he was a bit obsessed. At the time, he was easily in his twenties, by the way. One day, this cousin, Amit, actually met John Abraham, at a gas station, if I remember correctly. He was so excited. This is only tangentially related to the reason I am writing this post, but I just wanted everyone to know that this means that I am within a three or so “degrees” of everyone in Bollywood (and because you are reading this, you are within four or so).
Anyway, this summer, my aunt (whose nephew is Amit) was telling my mom about how Amit wanted to get married to his girlfriend. This is great news, until we found out that they checked the couple’s star charts, and it turns out that the girl is a manglik for Amit. If you have ever watched Lage Raho Munna Bhai, you may remember what this means. In essence, it means that the girl is bad luck for the boy, and (I am not sure whether this is true of all mangliks or just in some situations) that he will die within five years if he marries her. Of course, his family disapproved of the match.
At the time, I was outraged at the whole thing. I had heard stories of people like Sylvia Browne, who once told a woman that she was a product of an affair, and that this woman’s mother had tried to tell her this before she died. However, I had never had an experience of a psychic or astrologer ruining the life of someone so close to me. I just could not fathom that this guy, Amit (who is a really nice person) and his girlfriend would not be allowed to marry because of some doofus with a star chart. I could go on and on, but this, too, is not the point of my post.
I brought up Amit to my mom today, by way of mentioning John Abraham in Adrika’s presentation and going from there. I asked if there was any news of what had happened. Had they broken up for good? Obviously they had not made marriage plans, but I wondered what came of the situation. To my surprise, my mom said that as far as she knew, they were still fighting, “rebelling”. That made me so happy. I mean, this idiot pretender had not managed break up Amit and his girlfriend totally, and obviously some people did not put much store in astrology. If I actually knew who this stupid astrologer was, I would go up and slap him and curse him out, but that is never going to happen . . .
My mom and I continued discussing astrology, in a roundabout sort of way. I mentioned the Forer effect, and said how silly it seems to think that everyone born on the same day or month is somehow similar in their characteristics, but she told me she did not buy into zodiac stuff anyway. She did, however, believe in the Indian style of star charts. I told to her about the story of the astrologers who did not predict Neptune and looked stupid and then predicted Planet X when it did not exist and looked stupid that was told on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. I cannot remember which episode, unfortunately.
Her main argument was that astrologers she once visited had some accurate points: that she would marry a man whose name started with a J, and the two men she was closest to marrying were named Jignesh and Jayesh (my daddy); that my grandmother had a miscarriage before my mother; and a few other things.I pretty much followed the format I have seen in others’ arguments. First, I pointed out that there was really no conceivable mechanism that could relate the heavenly bodies to our lives. Then, I asked her how many of the astrologer’s predictions she actually remembered. Would she have remembered the miscarriage thing if it were not true? Does that not skew her data (she is a biologist, so she gets the science concepts)? I mentioned that if the astrologers do not do better than people who are just guessing, then what evidence is there? I also wondered aloud why these astrologers, who use mathematical concepts to get their results (according to my mom), do not seem to perform well in scientific studies. I think that was the most convincing argument of all.
I was glad that my mom used the “well, you have never experienced it so you do not know what I mean” excuse only once. Usually, she says it much more. Also, I was pretty happy with myself for holding my own in a discussion with her. With my dad, it would just escalate to a shouting match, and then we would storm into the house, fuming in our respective corners (hehe see the boxing imagery I used there? :D). If it were another topic, such as homeopathy (the same aunt practices homeopathy), my mom would just argue that neither of us has enough knowledge on the subject.
I do not think I really convinced her, because I do not think these sorts of discussions usually convince anyone of an argument’s verity right away. But it does plant seeds of doubt that slowly sprout as roots of skeptical inquiry spread (did I overdo that image system?). And hey, that is all ask for right now. :)