The website atheism.about.com has a really good article examining if astrology is pseudoscience or science. While I agree that astrology is bullshit, that is not what, I think, is the real take away point from the article. You could easily subsitute any number of questionable practices such as “psychic powers” or “homeopathy” for astrology.
The real importance of the article is how well it explains the scientific method. The reason this is important is that so many people have no concept of what the scientific method is and how it works. This leads to a gross misunderstanding and mistrust of science. This is bad because it leads to the undermining of scientific advancement in our society, a society that, more and more, is very dependent on the technology that science gives us.
There is a sad and firghtening trend in this country of mistrust, and even hostility, toward science. This kind of anti-science belief used to be confined to the radical right or left wing movements. The religious right fights against science when it contradicts the Bible (which is does the vast majority of the time). The radical left distrusts it because it is not “natural”, and they fear the possible misuses of science. Now, however, anti-science beliefs and rhetoric have become the norm. We see this in the current election cycle where Republican candidates are falling all over themselves to see who can be more anti-science than the rest.
It used to be that the GOP trumpeted the benefits of science as a way to make our society stronger, better, and safer. Does anyone remember the “Star Wars” program of the Reagan era? How about the Space Race? In this country, the military has always been a major driving force in advancing science and technology. It will be interesting to see how the military responds to the ever growing hostility of the GOP to science, considering that most of the military leadership has tended to be republican, as evidinced by the many generals who have gone into politics after retiring from their military careers.
This country used to be a leader in science and technology and that is what made it a great economic and military power. If this anti-science trend continues, we can only sit back and watch as our scientific technological leadership slips away and our economy because a totally consumer driven one, dependent on the technology of other countries who put science above superstition.