s-hpoll-small.jpgArianna Huffington has launched a new section at the Huffington Post called HuffPollstrology, to push back against the pollsters by treating “them as lightweight diversions on par with horoscopes and political betting lines.” Says Arianna:

To this end, we are introducing a new feature today: HuffPollstrology. It will keep you up to date on the latest poll results, along with the candidates’ latest horoscope predictions, the latest online political betting lines, and the latest weather forecasts for key primary states (and we know how accurate those often turn out to be!). Pollstrology is a great way to see who is hot and who is not — and which candidates’ stars say they might be lucky in voter love today.

So you can feed your poll habit every day, but in the right context — the way people who check their horoscopes every day know (unless they’ve checked their sanity at the door) that they have to take them with a large pinch of salt.

This way, you’ll be well-armed with the fun ways to start a conversation that polling and astrology provide: “I hear Hillary is ahead in California… What’s your sign? I bet you’re a Scorpio.”

The Huffington Post currently hosts two rather superficial astrology features: one a rather typical canned sun-sign treatment, courtesy of iVillage and the other by Michael Lutin (which I commented on here). Arianna Huffington’s equation of astrology to the rather superficial political polling that goes on in the service of U.S. electoral politics rather eloquently makes the case that many serious astrologers have been making for years, that sun sign astrology distorts what astrology is and what it is not, and what it can and cannot do.

Yesterday, there was some pushback from a rather surprising source, the renowned criminal attorney Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft (who represented Timothy McVeigh during the sentancing phase of his trial), who reveals that she supported herself while in college with an astrology practice (which seems to me like an excellent training for practicing law!). She writes:

If you’d like my takes, check back in a few days. In case I never mentioned it before, I had my own astrology business during college and law school. (I even cast an election for the Denver Mayor’s race one year at the request of one of the candidates who was then our District Attorney, using a combination of his birth chart and horary astrology. I predicted he’d lose and he did — but don’t forget, I had a 50% chance of being right, just like in a coin toss.)

As for what weight to give these astrological analysis, as I wrote in a brief in McVeigh’s case when arguing that forensic document (handwriting) experts are no more reliable than astrologers,

Mere training and experience is not a basis for establishing reliability. Many astrologers undergo years of training and expertise in the calculation and evaluation of natal charts, the placement and movement of planets through the twelve planetary houses of the Zodiac, and the calculation and comparison of the degree of angles made by one planet in relation to another in a chart. This discipline involves complex mathematical calculations and an understanding of the nature of the planets in the solar system as taught by a discipline that has been in existence for thousands of years. Yet, the specialized training, experience and expertise that is fundamental to the practice of astrology do not make it reliable. Nor do they elevate astrology to “knowledge”.

I am going to assume that what she means by “knowledge” is “certainty,” because there are a lot of astrologers out there who are into knowing an awful lot about astrology! That said, it is clear that she knows enough about astrology to have the good sense to link to Chris Brennan’s excellent tips for learning astrology.

In other words, it appears that she is making the point that people (like Arianna) should not judge astrology until they have learned something about it. And when it is recognized that entertaining sun sign columns are not a good way to begin. . . and are in fact, incredibly misleading.

Jeralyn promises to weigh in with some of her own astrological analysis (and like a good lawyer should, she does practice horary!) in the next week or so. I know I am looking forward to it!