Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrology and Monsanto

Dear Friend and Reader:

Venus stations direct Sunday after a six-week retrograde. This is one of the rare Venus retrogrades I’ve experienced when it felt like, and where many people described it feeling like, Mercury retrograde.

Official promotional photo Neil deGrasse Tyson by Karl Kaul.

Venus and Mercury are both closer to the Sun than is the Earth, so there are similarities there. They rush past us during the retrograde phase. I think that Venus has more influence in the mental realm than people give it credit for.

I’ve noticed that the deeper levels of intelligence are connected to a strong Venus placement; this takes the mind to the body level, what you might think of as innate or somatic knowledge that’s connected to the senses and also to memory. In recent years the concept of emotional intelligence has gained some acceptance in society — rather than being all about smartness, emotional intelligence is a wider-spectrum sensibility that can feel like intuition. I’ve seen in astrology that this can be described by Venus, among other factors.

I’ve heard descriptions of mixups and a scattered feeling with this Venus retrograde, which to me feels like it’s churning things around on a deeper level than Mercury. It has some of that tricksterish quality, though, which is uncharacteristic of Venus. The retrograde started in a Mercury-ruled sign (Virgo), so that may be a connection.

For its part, Mercury goes retrograde in Libra on Sept. 17 and has been in what’s called its shadow or echo phase since it entered Libra on Aug. 28, so you may be feeling some of that too. Sept. 17 is a busy day — Saturn ingresses Sagittarius to stay for more than two years. The lunar nodes contact the Aries Point exactly. The Sun is approaching the Libra equinox.

The astrology of the autumn, and indeed of the coming year, is a whole new dimension compared to what we experienced under the Uranus-Pluto square. It’s a different environment, both mental and of circumstance. There are all new stories.

Saturn enters Sagittarius on Sept. 17. It was there from late December to mid-June. It will leave Sagittarius and enter Capricorn on Dec. 20, 2017. Photo from Cassini Space Probe.

The push, the relentless grind of Uranus-Pluto, is now behind us. The adventure ahead is subtler, calling for a different kind of attention. We are now experiencing the Saturn-Jupiter-Neptune T-square, with centaur Nessus in the mix.

Nessus adds the thought: check and double-check what you feel. Listen to yourself. Consider the potential invisible implications of what you say and do.

The signs involved are all mutable — Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. Two of the planets involved are those associated with Pisces (Jupiter and Neptune).

We’ve gone from an era of Uranus-Pluto in the cardinal signs, to one characterized by Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune in the mutable signs. This is a cooler, slower-moving and less manic environment. It’s also likely to be confusing for many people, in terms of determining what is real, and what is relevant, and what is not. True, this is subjective — that is the whole issue.

Saturn-Neptune patterns such as this require sincere emphasis on discernment and paying attention to both facts and intuition. Saturn and Neptune working on one another can go a few different ways. One is potentially the struggle to keep a grip, which must be met with new approaches to your reality.

This can involve the relationship between the seen and the unseen world. Another is tension between what builds and what melts. Another is the drive to accomplish something that seems impossible. In my research into the Saturn-Neptune cycle, plenty of that seems to happen.

Given this and the multiple inner-planet stations, I think we are in an extended moment of “the truth comes out” — one of my favorite ideas of Mercury stationing retrograde or direct, which currently I’m applying to Venus as well.

In that light, I have a story to share, involving Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s currently the top-of-the-pops astronomer, and many think he’s following in the footsteps of Carl Sagan, except for one not-so-small point — Sagan actually honored the core principles of science.

Dr. Carl Sagan (1934-1996), professor of astronomy at Cornell University and host of the original Cosmos program. Sagan did not like astrology, but he would not participate in attacks on it not grounded in science.

Tyson hosts the program Startalk, he was involved in a revival of Sagan’s program Cosmos and he’s director of the Hayden Planetarium. Apparently very popular, he’s considered one of the leading advocates of scientific knowledge and the smartest guy in the room.

I was not aware that he was a debunker of astrology until I was doing a Google search back in March and came up with a page from his book The Pluto Files where I am mentioned. Here is that page.

He quotes me from an article in The Wall Street Journal, suggesting that I’m using minor planet discoveries to lure people out of their own power. I thought that was so funny I wrote a spoof on the Astronomy-Astrology Debate for April Fool’s Day, my favorite holiday.

In my fictional scenario, deGrasse came out as an astrologer. I was the defender of astronomy. In a live event before a full house at Columbia University, I would discover and name a centaur planet (controlling the Very Large Array of telescopes in New Mexico from my laptop).

Then he would tell us what it meant on the spiritual level. I think this was my favorite parody ever.

This week, I learned that deGrasse has an ongoing campaign against astrology. I asked around and started getting YouTube videos of his various attempts to assail astrology. They have one thing in common: his facts don’t check out. He claims that astrology is debunked by science, without defining astrology or citing any studies. Instead, he states hypotheticals and claims that two-thirds of any audience would agree with any newspaper horoscope, without giving any specifics.

He does not address the issue that you cannot prove a negative. You cannot prove that there are no purple swans; you can only say after a careful search of all five continents and every island in every ocean, nobody has found one yet, that we know of. Tomorrow, we just might find one, playing chess with an orange swan. Or somebody found one back in 1312 but his notebook got lost. Negatives are not subject to logical proof. You can only say what is so. No matter how many studies have failed to show an astrological effect, somebody may come up with one tomorrow.

But he also has issues with basic fact-checking. In one interview, he was attempting to debunk the notion that due to some astrological effect, there are more births at the Full Moon. I’d never heard that claim, but he took it on.

Lifelike model of a late-term fetus in the womb. The human gestation period is well known to be 280 days or about nine calendar months, not 295 days as suggested by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Photo: CP / Alliance Atlantis / HO from the Calgary Herald Merlin Archive.

He said that the lunar month has 29.5 days, and that the human gestation period is 295 days. Admitting that you cannot deny that the Full Moon is romantic, more people have sex at the Full Moon, and therefore, 295 days or exactly 10 Full Moons later, more people have babies. That, he said, solves the riddle of Full Moon births.

There’s just one problem. The human gestation period is on average 280 days, two weeks shorter than he claimed. Two weeks is half of the lunar cycle, which reverses his theory. Based on the real gestation period, there would be a lot of New Moon births resulting from all that saucy Full Moon sex (which is speculative anyway; he claimed that “nobody doubts that the Full Moon is romantic” and therefore people have sex).

After hearing a bunch of these absurd claims, I took to the airwaves on my podcast Tuesday with a message about scientists ignoring data, focusing on deGrasse but expanding the issue. You can listen to just that segment in the second player on the page.

I recognized his ignore-the-data point of view from my work on dioxins and PCBs — wherein you discover fast that the most deadly chemicals are said to be the very most healthful.

However, a scientist declaring a chemical safe is something entirely different from a study that says what the known effect threshold is. But we hear from scientists all the time, claiming that vaccinations are safe or that they would feed pesticides to their kids, though without citing specific data.

Albert Einstein (1879-1959) helped stoke our image of scientist as celestially inspired genius. On some level we expect all scientists (especially physicists) to be that smart, or to care as much as he did. What distinguishes Einstein is both his originality and apparent humanity.

Scientists have authority, and they often abuse that authority on what you could call a religious basis — if a scientist says it, then it’s true. In my view, anyone who claims the power of science must have the backing of scientific data.

For my program, I dug out of my files an interview with an attorney who worked on PCB and dioxin cases, Paul Merrell. Because of conflicts in scientific studies — many of which are bought and paid for by polluters — he said you can never really declare something safe.

Rather, “There’s only the social policy question what to do in the face of missing information.” But so-called scientists frequently make claims without data. “For them to take on the power, or to assume the power, to decide for other people what risks they’re willing to take with their health is incredibly arrogant at the very least, if not evil.”

Monsanto takes this further; the company is famous (but not famous enough) for ignoring and manipulating data, and creating fake data. Monsanto pays for people to do fraudulent studies, and then submit them to medical journals where they are consecrated as holy scripture. If you’re curious, here is an article about that.

I made this comparison between Tyson’s position on astrology and lies told by Monsanto merely on the basis of his reasoning; using the pulpit of science to debunk astrology, but without data, Tyson is using the same line of thought that Monsanto does.

This is done systematically. Many large companies, including Monsanto and General Electric, have an MO of placing scientists in positions where they will get calls from the press (such as at various fake institutes and nonprofits). The job of those Ph.Ds is to say that the chemical is safe (and you can trust me because I’m a scientist). I have a whole document set related to GE-sponsored scientists serving as what are called “ringers” who tell the press what the company wants the public to hear.

Keith Schneider, formerly of The New York Times, was one of the most infamous ringers in history. He wrote a ten-part, front page series in the Times on why dioxin is now considered safe. This was on behalf of the pulp and paper industry. In fact all the new data pointed the other way. Read about that incident in this article from American Journalism Review. Malcolm Gladwell was at work doing the same thing at The Washington Post.

Therefore, we have to be careful when considering things that scientists or indeed any presumed experts say (including astrologers); they have a lot of authority in our society, and regarding scientists, the only thing between us and anything they claim is the data. This is true for claims that dioxin is safe or that astrology is bullshit. And that was my podcast.

Then I checked my email.

A discussion had sprung up on the Planet Waves editors’ list (called the Eco List) about Tyson’s position on GMOs. Apparently he is one of the most outspoken advocates of accepting them as safe. I had no idea.

“I’m amazed how much objection that genetically modified foods are receiving from the public,” he said in one presentation. “It smacks of the fear factor that exists at every new emergent science, where people don’t fully understand it, or don’t fully embrace its consequences, and therefore reject it.” Aah, spoken like a true Monsanto shill.

But it gets better. “What most people don’t know, but they should, is that practically every food you buy in a store, for consumption by humans, is genetically modified food.” You can probably see where he’s going with this. He’s going to say that ordinary farming is the same as Monsanto spending billions of dollars on its “life sciences” program.

“There are no wild, seedless watermelons,” Tyson continues. “There’s no wild cows. There’s no long-stem roses growing in the wild, although we don’t eat roses. You list all the fruit and all the vegetables and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it.” [By the way, there are wild cows and humans do eat roses.]

“We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals, that we have eaten, since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection. All of a sudden we’re going to do it in a lab and now you’re going to complain? If you’re the complainer type, go back and eat the apples that grow wild. You know something? They’re this big [he gestures with two fingers], and they’re tart. They’re not sweet like Red Delicious apples. We manufacture those. That’s a genetic modification.”

Flint corn, one of three types of corn cultivated by the Native Americans, was grown from much different wild equivalents. Neil deGrasse Tyson compares this to laboratory genetic modification. GMO corn is a pesticide registered with the EPA.

Does he really think that organic apples are manufactured? Anyway, he goes on: “We are creating and modifying the biology of the world to serve our needs. I don’t have a problem with that because we’ve been doing it for tens of thousands of years. So chill out.”

Note the absolute lack of data in his discussion. Note the lack of balance; he acts like there is no other side of the story — and there is one. Note that he is an astrophysicist, with no degrees or publications in biology, botany, plant genetics, human genetics, immunology or toxicology.

Like most things deGrasse says, you need a whole book chapter to unravel the deceit, but I will sum it up briefly. He’s comparing Indians gradually breeding better corn and squash over thousands of years to a single genetic snip that distorts evolution and forces changes that might not have happened over millions of generations (and then the pollen is turned loose on the world, in an uncontrolled experiment). Further, hybridizing a tomato over time in greenhouses is not the same as mixing its genetics with those of a fish.

Usually, the worst lies are those of omission. What he’s leaving out is that genetic modification is used to turn plants into pesticides — such as the New Leaf Potato, or Bt corn, which are formulated to be deadly to insects. Both are registered pesticides. The concept of a pesticide potato was so disgusting, even McDonald’s and Burger King would not serve it, so Monsanto dropped the product. This is not Indians crossbreeding corn. But GMO corn is everywhere. Depending on your diet, you might eat it 10 times a day.

Here is the real problem — the global problem. Most genetic modification is designed to allow plants to withstand heavy applications of chemical herbicides; that is “Roundup Ready Corn.” And when you have a lot of that growing, you have a lot of Roundup getting into your nacho chips, your corn flakes, or anything with corn starch or high fructose corn syrup — and therefore into your gut flora, which it messes up (along with your immune system). Roundup, also called glyphosate, was originally registered with the EPA on the basis of fraudulent safety testing data fabricated by the infamous Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories.

In Brazil, farmers burn GMO soybeans protesting what they say are Monsanto’s abusive practices. In that country many lawsuits are pending against Monsanto. The vast damage to farmers and the environment caused by GMO crops has yet to be calculated but is plain to see.

Scientists at Dow Chemical, another agribusiness giant, are modifying plants to withstand both the application of Roundup and 2,4-D — that is, Agent Orange, of Vietnam fame — which is now being used as an agricultural weed killer.

This, despite the fact that 2,4-D is known to be contaminated with dioxin, and that it, too, was certified safe by Industrial Bio-Test Labs.

The essence of Tyson’s argument is that if you think GMO corn sprayed with Roundup or Agent Orange is any worse than an organic apple, you’re anti-science and anti-progress; you probably think the world is flat.

And if you follow astrology, you’re the same kind of fool.

I am still astonished at this discovery. Calling him out on lying about astrology and discovering that he’s a ringer for Monsanto is a story beyond my wildest dreams. It’s like a cop pulling someone over for a tail light and finding 20 pounds of heroin on the back seat, or catching Son of Sam because he got a parking ticket.

Tyson’s position on astrology is the least of our problems. Along with Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” (another GMO advocate), we now have a new class of corporate ringers: wildly popular people who play scientists on TV advocating for lies masquerading as science: that is, without data, and ignoring the established dangers — and belittling widespread public concern. As one person commented on YouTube, apparently sincere: “Who needs God when you’ve got Neil deGrasse Tyson?”


Weekly Horoscope for Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 #1065 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — It’s time to let yourself out of whatever bottle you’ve been hanging out in. You may be thinking that close partners or lovers are the ones who have been hesitating, and your current scenario may be the result of a mutual reaction. However, only you can move your own energy. Only you can make your decisions. Only you can set yourself free and, notably, only if you want to. While your relationship life seems to be your highest priority or most compelling interest, for that to work at all you need to focus on yourself, your feelings and most of all your willingness to take risks. That’s a matter of confidence. If you focus on what you want, you can indeed afford to let the dice tumble where they may. If you are distracted by what others want, your chances of success are not quite as clear. One thing to always keep in mind is that many turns of events yet to unfold over the next few months were set in motion back in early January. Live the adventure.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Venus, the planet associated with Taurus, stations direct this week after spending much of the summer retrograde. This suggests a few shifts in your personal environment — one of which will be emphasizing the present rather than certain elements of the past, potentially household or family issues, which have taken some time and energy to resolve. The real threshold that I see is your stepping into understanding that you are the foundation of your own life. You, as in not anyone else: for example, partners or family. Your independence is the most significant ingredient in your personal happiness. You have learned many times that if you cannot count on others, you must count on yourself. But now you will see that if you can count on yourself, it takes significant pressure off of your relationships, leaving you and the people close to you free to experience things based on desire and not on need. The activating agent here is being real with yourself all the time. You may need to toss aside your expectations and just ask yourself: “What is so?”

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You don’t need to live your life wondering when the fun is going to run out. It’s true that several different factors are guiding you to take a more focused and serious approach to existence. This may include the idea that you need to shift your relationships and choose one that really works, even if that means sacrificing something. I suggest you take the opposite approach, and filter out the people who are not participating in what you want; people who don’t really recognize you. They have plenty of other opportunities and so do you. Yet where you may start is with yourself. It’s rare indeed that people focus on their inner relationship. Most of what we do with others ends up being a distraction from having an inner life; from being content on your own. Even the thought of this is often experienced as scary, dangerous, undesirable or impossible — but somehow inevitable. Saturn soon to arrive in your opposite sign Sagittarius is a bold invitation to get to know yourself, like only you can.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You can now focus an idea or a project that has seemed difficult to condense into some tangible form. It’s likely that whatever form this ends up becoming — be it imagery, music, a novel, an art installation — it will start with writing. Begin by describing what has seemed ethereal or challenging to describe. See if you can convey the feeling and the central concept. Note, this may not directly involve a creative project; it may involve a change you want to make in your life, or your environment. The more clearly you relate the basic elements and focus your desire for a specific outcome, the more attainable it will seem. Any feelings that something is impossible to create are likely the result of lack of clarity about what it is. So think of this process as being about getting clear, and then concentrating something in cohesive mental form — that is, a description. Once you get past any initial awkwardness, it will be easy to refine and modify your verbal sketch, adding additional detail; as you do, the methods will come into focus.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Venus has been retrograde in your sign for the past six weeks. This has been like training for a new mission, ambition or goal. Think of what you’ve been experiencing as preparation or training for a new phase of your life. If you’ve been hesitating, stop and ask yourself what you really want and whether you’re finally ready to move forward with full commitment. I say this aware of how elusive this ‘full commitment’ thing is. We tend to think of goals as being outside of ourselves, like a ladder or mountain to climb. Whatever you may want to do in the world, the real objective is inside yourself. You are learning to embody an idea or an ideal of some kind. You might think of this as cultivating a state or being associated with leadership. The first requirement of leading others is self-respect, and this too has been one of the learning goals of Venus retrograde in your sign. The message: accountability for your life goes all the way to the top — that is, beginning and ending with you.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — This is your birthday season, and the Sun in your sign is joined by Jupiter — the planet of promise and potential, which shows up every 12 years. You may well be asking yourself what is possible. You may be asking yourself what you’re capable of. Or, you may be wondering what’s going to come to you; when your ship is going to come in. A year is short, and it would be better if you learn the message of Jupiter sooner rather than later: take initiative. Then, be patient as you assemble the pieces of your dream. Remember that anything going from concept (or fantasy) into physical reality will require some translation, and it won’t necessarily manifest as you were envisioning it. That’s enough to deter most people from persisting in creating something for themselves; don’t let it deter you. Engage your curiosity about what will manifest. Allow for what you have not planned or envisioned. Let your process take unusual turns; and most of all, don’t bother yourself with what anyone else may think. If there is one necessary step on the way to tapping your real creativity, that’s the one.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — This is going to be an interesting week for you socially. Try to get out of the house or the office, every day if you can. Notice the difference between your day worlds and your night worlds. They will be as different as, well, night and day. The essence of your current astrology is a revelation of how you perceive yourself as a social being, or a public being — as someone perceived by others. This is usually awkward territory for people; they tend to carry distortions about how people see them, what makes them attractive, what others will notice, and so on. I am not suggesting you should worry about these things. To the contrary, what seems to be happening is that you are slipping into a more confident space, a sense of ease about who you are, what image you project and how people see you. The key to this is confidence. You can start with caring less, and being yourself more. I suggest you push this, that you take more social risks, and that you immediately process and work through any residual discomfort you may feel and get right back to being yourself. Yes, it takes practice.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You have every reason to be confident, though you still may be hesitating. It’s true that there are certain decisions you have to make, and that there’s a possibility you’ll need to leave some people in the past. Yet it’s just as likely that your relationships will transform, if you take the first steps. What I suggest you avoid is not doing something because someone else seems reluctant. As bold as you are, you still need the support and encouragement of others sometimes, though it would be excellent if you took a step and took initiative, particularly social, on your own timing and your own terms. The story of your life the past few years is about your desire to be a bolder, more ambitious person. You’ve reached a time in your life when others need your leadership more than you need theirs. Most of that involves where you will allow your mind to go; your actual state of releasing your inhibitions rather than fostering them. They no longer protect you from jealous or envious people. You are much bigger than that.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Much of the frenzy about God on our planet is really about sex. How else could you get so many people so riled up? Of course, it’s only religion that insists this cannot and must not be true. We’re told over and over that our bodies and our feelings are not just sinful, but — in the words of one holy book — an attack on God. This is an overt way to say something that’s usually distributed in background-level toxic doses. I would say that it’s time for you to question this doctrine, but the question has probably been brewing for a while. That brew is coming to a boil; one of many signs that your body temperature, and emotional temperature, will be running a few degrees hotter the next few years. It’s essential that you invest your passion in tangible desires. You cannot capture lightning in a bottle, though you can invest your motivation into what is the most meaningful — that is, into those people and experiences you’ve wanted for a long time. While you’re at it, make friends with sex every chance you get. Think of it as the hearth at the center of your home.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Saturn is oh so slowly working its way toward Sagittarius. This may be coming with the feeling, “When will the past finally be over?” Well, this is perhaps the most complex psychological issue that humans must engage, if they want to actually exist with the full power of their minds, their creativity, their ability to choose. We could start with the last on that list, choice. Pick a decision that you’re having difficulty making, or sticking to. Then be brutally honest and map out all the little hang-ups that are getting in your way. The more ridiculous they are, the better — various potential consequences, fear of how others will respond, what you might get entangled in, whatever phobias you might have of being yourself, and so on. What are these concepts connected to? If you put that out in plain language, you will get a snapshot of your relationship to the past. One thing that Saturn in Sagittarius will ensure is that you deepen your relationship to yourself. That deepening will take you into the place inhabited by your ancestors, where you will get to confront them and your relationship to them. Remember, you don’t owe them anything, and whoever you thought they were, they are now ascended masters who want to see you live the way you choose to live and no less.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You seem to have put certain relationship matters on hold, or to be proceeding on a wait-and-see basis. Whatever is revealed this week, as Venus stations direct in your opposite sign Leo, you might well be done waiting and ready to start seeing. So what do you see? Who do you see? Look carefully and better still, listen attentively. The one matter you may be ready to fully engage or indeed confront is what happens to your autonomy when you enter into a close relationship with someone else. You are long past the time when you can give up your individuality and personal volition for the sake of companionship. It’s likely you would rather be ‘alone’ than give up who you really are, what you really want to do, or to have to shut down some aspect of yourself. For you, the thing to do is stay open and available at the same time you exchange love and affirmation with others. The story of your life for the next two years of Saturn in Sagittarius is to stand in your own personal space of who you are. Easier said than done, but easier done than not done.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — There’s plenty of you to go around. Your sign represents the ocean and the cosmic ocean. Currently Pisces is home to sea-god Neptune and master healer and mentor Chiron. And Jupiter, the classical planet associated with Pisces, is in your relationship sign Virgo. That means: take initiative. Offer what you have. Be bold about this, and consider every proposal that involves someone else to be an offering of yourself. Many factors suggest that you are the activating agency in your environment. You supply the fertilizing power, the water to sprout the seeds, the creative liquid that melts the paint and inspires movement and exploration. It is therefore essential that you be bolder than you might ordinarily be — that you be the one to start the conversation, to make the offer. Start the project, make the call, get the canvases out of the closet, tune the instrument, charge the camera battery, clean out your car and get ready to go someplace. Every influence in your chart is saying it’s time to live and to live well. This is what I’m talking about.

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