My report on the Apple Store SOHO astrology nonsense and why it was worth it to go:
The auditorium at the Apple Store was filled. Maybe it’s always filled since the store is so popular but most people I observed did seem to be there for the presentation and were watching attentively. This, I think, is a testament to how wide the belief in astrology runs in our society.
Disregarding the subject at hand and judging the presentation purely on the basis of how the software was presented, I would say it was a pathetic show. I was quite surprised – I had expected a slick sales pitch but it was all extremely unorganized with Suzan Miller sort of rambling on and trying to make chit-chat with the audience but she was blatantly insincere and kept interjecting with a nervous laughter reminiscent of Senator Clinton’s now famous laugh. Henry Seltzer came in late and tried to quickly get his microphone connected and then immediately started with, “I have Barack Obama’s chart! See, there it is!” as he pointed to the large projection behind them displaying a circle with a bunch of colored lines in it. WOW! I was impressed. Well, maybe not.
Instead of a brief synopsis of the software, what it “can do” and how to use it they just immediately started talking about charts, signs and Angelina Jolie?! I guess you were supposed to know what the chart was, what it represented and how to read it. I was reminded of the very interesting and equally valid chart generated by the FSM Church showing the global temperature and number of pirates. They were all over the place, I’m not sure if it was that they were confused or intentionally trying to confuse the audience.
Luckily for me they were taking questions during this whole time and all the questions I heard were run of the mill, generic things seeking guidance for their sign (except for a woman that asked why Sarah Palin’s chart was similar to Obama’s which upset Mr. Seltzer and he blathered on about why it wasn’t.) I knew I wouldn’t get many chances so I was torn what to ask about.
I started by asking why you use the time of birth rather than the time of conception as the date by which to construct your chart. I have to admit that Mr. Seltzer answered this better than I had expected but considering this is one of the “big 10 objections” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He said it’s because that’s when you become an independent being – when you take your first breath THAT’S when the planets and stars start in control you! They were on to the next question so of course we couldn’t discuss any of this further like, you keep saying it’s the BIRTH and now you are saying it’s the breath – which is it? If being an independent being is the definition then what about a premature baby on life support – do the planets politely wait until he or she is able to removed from the incubator? Can you alter the destiny of your child by forcibly inducing labor at a preferred time? Or, as my wife said, if Angelina Jolie had been born 4 minutes later would she have been ugly?
Suzan Miller began going down the list of astrological signs throwing out worthless chunks of generic nonsense to the eager and willing crowd while Henry started taking volunteers to come up and give him their birth information so he could do their chart as a demonstration (still not having explained what the hell he was doing…)
I asked another question. I REALLY wish I would have recorded the whole thing, not just my questions but the entire presentation. I would like to have it both as entertainment as well as a point of reference for the future (I think I’m going to invest in a small digital recorder…) So I asked them if they have heard of the James Randi Educational Foundation Million Dollar Challenge. “What? Have we huh? Can you repeat that?” I asked again. Suzan Miller said, “I appeared on a television show with Mr. Randi.” Uh, O.K., doesn’t answer the question. I tried to quickly say that if they can demonstrate that astrology and / or this software works that they would be eligible for the million dollars, that I confirmed with James Randi earlier in the week that they would be eligible and all they would have to do is show that they have a higher success than mere chance alone and – then the microphone was taken away from me.
Mr. Seltzer began to dismissively say that it all depends how you define “works” (reminiscent of “It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.”) Suzan Miller began saying how this is all math and science and they don’t claim to be psychic, in fact, she refuses to go on television with psychics and that when they became astrologers they had to make an oath to uphold the principles of Ptolemy and the ancient mathematicians. She went on and on for a few minutes and I REALLY wish I had it recorded so I could dissect that hilarious jumble of nonsense.
Well at this point, I KNEW I wouldn’t be allowed another question. This was the point when I wished there some other skeptics in the audience so that additional questions revealing how absurd all of this was might have planted a seed or two of doubt in someone in the audience. My wife and I had to go (we had an appointment) so I wasn’t able to stay to the end but I think I had seen enough. I can’t imagine that all of the sudden, at the very end, they would decide to conclude their presentation with a logical and well-prepared summary.
This brings me to the point of why it was worth it to go in the first place. As we were leaving, a young man came up to me and asked me if this was for real. He was visiting New York from France and just happened to be in the store buying something and saw something going on so he decided to watch. He was appalled. He kept saying that these people can’t really be serious can they?! I said yes, unfortunately, they are VERY serious. He went on in exasperation how in France he knows people that think it’s fun to read a horoscope while they wait for a bus but he doesn’t know a single person that actually believes any of it and that these people are adults and probably have children and that this is dangerous! I agreed with him. We talked for a couple minutes watching the spectacle of nonsense before us and then we both left but as we turned to leave he thanked me quite sincerely for at least saying SOMETHING. I think I was able to alter his perception so that he didn’t think that the whole auditorium was filled with stupid Americans and that made it worth the trip.