Children Aren’t the Problem July 20, 2010

Children Aren’t the Problem

It’s the adults who buy into all the superstitious nonsense, not the kids.

Neil deGrasse Tyson elaborates:

That was an excerpt from a longer talk Tyson gave at Google in 2009. You can see the full lecture here.

(How are there so few people in the audience?! When a prophet speaks, everyone is supposed to listen!)

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  • Valhar2000

    Well, I did read horoscopes when I was a kid, and even believed them, and then I outgrew that. You never can tell with kids.

  • gharkness

    I was disappointed to see an almost-empty auditorium. What’s up with that?

  • Sven

    As a child I also read the horoscopes. Several actualy, and I choose the most favourable one.
    Now that I’m older I recognize the same behavour with grown-ups believing in all kinds of Woo.

  • Trace

    “I was disappointed to see an almost-empty auditorium. What’s up with that?”

    The force is strong with horoscopes?

  • abadidea

    When I was little I had no idea what horoscopes were until my teacher told me they were satanic, lol.

  • Hitch

    He is a genius. I love his intensity with a smile.

  • Rich Wilson

    Children grow up and learn from the grown ups around them.

  • In our office the only people who read the stars are old ladies. They read them to one another and cluck over then like demented hens. Putting aside that rather derogatory stereotype it remains the case that the younger women are disinterested in such things. Men in our office scowl and grumble* all the time, especially when the stars are being read out.

    I do think he has a point though. When it comes to the spread of memes this modern, technologically literate and advanced world that we live in is incredible. Those same memes can be checked for veracity, cross referenced for reliability and generally tested to destruction. That’s what happens with superstitions like horoscopes, ladders** and monochrome felines. The superstitious meme goes against a meme for finding out the answer and loses. If you are raised with this information at your fingertips then of course you are more likely to reject memes that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    *I can be even handed in my stereotypes.

    **I don’t walk under ladders. Not because they are somehow unlucky but there was a time when a decorator dripped paint on my head. It is only rational to avoid potential harm from falling debris.

  • Aaron

    I don’t walk under ladders.

    Well, some superstitions may actually be good advice, just not for what they claim to be.
    Don’t walk under ladders, something might fall on you.
    Don’t break a mirror, they are expensive and you might cut yourself.
    Don’t open an umbrella indoors, you might knock something over, you oaf.
    Don’t light three cigarettes on one match, it gives the snipers enough time to shoot you.
    Just everyday wisdom. 🙂


    I read horoscopes when I was a kid. My parents told me not to because the horoscopes were trash. Than again, my parents believe in the Holy Trinity, so there you go.

  • Chal

    I read horoscopes as a kid, even though I’m pretty sure that my parents never did.

  • allison

    One of my kids has been reading the horoscopes for a little while in order to test his conjecture that what happens in one’s life is the usually the opposite of what one’s horoscope claims…..

    Count me as another who was disappointed to see the low turnout.

  • selfification

    Hey… some of us have work to do at work :). Besides, it’s Google; we use Youtube too. Only the people who really want to ask questions (or have something intelligent to say) need to attend a talk. The rest of us can just see the video right afterwards from our desks.

  • Rich Wilson
  • Sarah

    There are only 10 people there! I wish I was there.

    I used to read horoscopes. I never believed them but they were fun to read.

  • Stephen P

    @mton: the really religious people I have known (as opposed to the Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers) have almost all been strongly against horoscopes. I think they view them as competition.

  • Rich Wilson

    @Stephen P
    My mother used to be big into astrology. She’s now big into Christ. Whenever she hears someone’s birthday she goes into an automatic astrological analysis before stopping herself with some comment about ‘but of course God doesn’t work that way’.

    Habits die hard.

  • I definitely hate woo more than religion.

  • I used to read my horoscope as a kid, but I thought of it the exact same way I thought of fortune cookies, Ouija boards, and the Magic 8 Ball. Fun, but certainly not anything to take seriously.

  • Lynne

    I used to believe in horoscopes until I took Psych 101 in college and found out about an experiment in which newspaper horoscopes were cut out without their signs and put into a hat and drawn at random – then given to people who were told these were their horoscopes. Everyone thought they sounded so accurate because of course they are so vague that they apply to everyone. So I thought this experiment was really cool, dumped my previous belief, and tried to tell someone else about it. She asked me, why would I want to take away other people’s beliefs? LOL!

  • JB Tait

    I use horoscopes the same way I use the flip of a coin.

    Coin as an Executive Decision Tool:
    &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp You are having difficulty deciding if you want A or B. Flip coin. If you are happy with your coin, then you have your answer. If you’d like to try best two out of three (you disagree with the coin) then you have your answer.

    Likewise, if you read your horoscope and you think, “golly that is spot on–good idea,” then you have seen into your own mind and have some guiding advice for your day. If you think, “what a crock–that is a bad idea,” then you have also seen into your own mind, and you still have some guiding advice for your day.

    You could read Bertrand Russell, follow the RSS feed for Quotes of the Day, listen to talks by the Dalai Lama, subscribe to Hints for Homeowners {or fill in your group}, read Friendly Atheist posts, or any number of other sources of inspiration, but the horoscope is the fast food of philosophy–a quick snack to start your day.

    What is interesting is that the style of horoscope writers is fairly consistent. There is one whose advice is nearly 100% useful to me, and right for my circumstances. There is another who is nearly always wrong, sometimes spectacularly so.
    I once had a completely reliable movie reviewer. If he liked something, it was certain I would not, and if he was critical of a movie, I usually loved it. I could count on his reviews for guidance.

    Fortune Cookies, Tarot cards, Magic 8 Ball, and the others all share this advice giving feature. They are a way of knowing your own mind.

    With this policy in mind, I wonder how much the religious who cherry-pick from their holy books are doing the same thing. They follow the precepts when they seem to fit, and the discount the ones that do not.

  • JB Tait

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  • muggle

    I think JB’s got it! Do I really need to say again how much I love Neil DeGrasse Tyson?

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