All that is wrong with the world…

June 30, 2011

How do people consider Astrology seriously?

Filed under: Issues...the world...etc.. — Tags: , , , , , , — allthatiswrong @ 12:13 am

It bugs me how many people I know that lend credibility to Astrology. So, I decided to rant about it here. People will probably point out I’m not saying anything new here, which is true. Even so, I want to rant and try to aggregate all the sources and arguments I have found in one place. People may find it useful – my goal is that for rational people to read this, they will no longer be able to make a rational argument justifying or defending modern day astrology. There have always been people skeptical of astrology, for example Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540), a papal adviser, wrote: How happy are the astrologers if they tell one truth to a hundred lies, while other people lose all credibility if they tell one lie to a hundred truths.Yet here we are in 2011 with horoscopes in every newspaper printed around the world, with people taking it seriously and to various extents using it to guide their life.

I have never understood how people can believe in astrology with any degree of seriousness. I understand some people just see it as entertaining except for many people it goes further than entertainment. Many people might get a tattoo of their horoscope honestly believing that their sign defines their personality. Others take it further defining selecting the people they date or have relationships with based on their compatibility or making big life decisions based on their horoscope. It’s interesting to me because people who believe in astrology are making exactly the same mistake as people who believe in various religions, yet often I hear people dismiss religion and claim to embrace science while also still subscribing to astrology. How can people be so stupid?

This year started off with an interesting astrology headline being in the news, when a Minnesota newspaper published a story claiming the signs had now changed dates to account for the moon’s wobble as well as a new sign, Ophiuchus, being introduced. Never mind the fact that western astrology is not affected due to using a tropical zodiac as opposed to a sidereel zodiac or the fact that the horoscope dates are about 3000 years off anyway, it still made the news and caused somewhat of a panic, highlighting just how ignorant people are of the things they put their faith in. So, western astrology uses a tropical zodiac which is based on seasons. What about the different hemispheres? Are the predictions reversed just as the seasons are? What I found interesting was people’s reactions to this story. It was clear that most people did not understand the system they decided to base their decision on, and that some people are so attached to it that they refused to accept the possibility that they may have to let go of their sign. Despite it being well known it was the first time many people had heard of it, yet it didn’t shake their faith at all.

Looking at various surveys it seems at least 1/3rd of Americans think astrology is a valid discipline with even more considering it to be scientific. That number isn’t too far removed from that of other western countries which isn’t so bad. It is far worse in other countries such as India where it was ruled to be a trusted science and is taught in universities. It’s just a shame to see so much of the world displaying stupidity to such a level. First of all (and this goes for religion as well) why would you consider the astrology of your culture to necessarily be correct? There are many different types of astrology and they tend mutually exclusive. What are the chances that the astrological system used where you happened to grow up also happens to be the correct one, given as only one can be correct?

Surely if there were anything to astrology, we would see some consistency in the observations made by all the different astrological systems. It doesn’t matter if they get some minor details wrong or personality profiles differ…., but there should at least be something quantifiable. That there isn’t would seem to support the theory that all astrological systems are purely interpretive and speculative deriving from the culture they develop out of. It’s hard to try and disprove some of the claims made by astrology due to them not being falsifiable. However every test we have done has demonstrated that any astrological prediction is no more reliable than what is expected by chance. Even the studies we have done with twins have failed to find any inkling of evidence for astrology. One study followed over 2000 people born just minutes apart for decades and failed to find any evidence of meaningful similarities. The closest we have ever come to finding something meaningful that may support astrology was the interesting correlation known as the Mars effect , although even this was meaningless simply being explained by selection bias.

It just seems so ridiculous that people take this seriously, and that it is lent credibility from governments and academics. It is a guarantee that most daily horoscopes with contradict each other rather than harmonize. There is no evidence for any terrestrial body having any causal affect on personality or events in life. At the most a sometimes meaningless correlation might be found. Astrology is only evidence of people having a desire to defer to fatalism, lessening the burden of life by taking solace in the fact that some decisions are outside of their control. This type of ignorance is dangerous and we as a society should take steps to correct it rather than embrace it. What can we do apart from educate people as to why it is bunk? People should be free to believe what they like, but we should prevent astrology being taught as though it were science.

On a somewhat unrelated note I always thought was interesting was that it always seems that far more women believed in astrology than men. Anecdotally that seems true, but I can’t actually find any information on this. It does seem that there is far more astrology advertising targeted towards women in magazines and on women’s television networks and I would wager that the advertising companies did their research. One theory is that women are not more likely to believe in paranormal theories than men, just that they tend to believe in more social paranormal phenomena while men tend to believe in creatures or entities. It isn’t really relevant but I can’t but help find that interesting.

What about the accuracy of signs for personality descriptions? Many people dismiss the daily horoscopes yet still cling to the idea that the zodiac personality profiles are accurate. Well, after searching several sources to try and find a consistent description for my sign, as a Cancer I apparently hold the following traits:

• I am a hoarder, collecting things and keeping for a long time, things which others would tend to discard.

• I am overly emotional, very prone to mood swings and showing whatever emotion I am feeling in expressively.

• I am artistic. As I am so emotional art serves as an outlet for my excess emotional energy.

• I crave and adore attention, like being the star of the party.

• I have a great sense of humor and it is one of my stronger points.

• I likely have a tendency to be patriotic.

Well….those traits are either entirely inaccurate or so general as to apply to far more than 1/12th of the population. I am far from a hoarder, traveling around the world with all but a messenger bag full of essentials. I tend to be less emotional than most people, not more, which is actually the cause of some problems in my personal life. I have literally zero artistic ability. I can’t draw even the most simplest of shapes with any degree of accuracy. It’s true that I like attention and many people think I have a great sense of humor, however I am not patriotic in the least, and don’t think much of those that are. So, the only two traits which are actually accurate are extremely general, probably occurring in other sign profiles as well. It’s based on these profiles that people are deciding relationships and making serious life decisions. Such a shame.

In my case my sign profile tends to be more inaccurate than not, however in many cases people will feel that their profile is eerily accurate. This is easily explained by what is known as the Forer effect, where a statement seemingly tailored to an individual will consist of entirely general statements, which the individual then interprets in a specific way relevant to themselves. The name comes from an experiment where the following statement was given to a group of people:

You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life

They were asked to rate it’s accuracy on a scale of 1 – 5, with the average score being 4.26. The statement is so general and vague that of course people are going to be able to relate it to themselves. The problem is that not enough people seem to be aware of this basic psychological phenomenon, thus wasting millions of money and fraud and continuing a cycle of ignorance which only hinders our progress.

We shouldn’t dismiss astrology entirely as it is a part of our history, but it should be relegated to the same status as alchemy. An interesting part of our history that we now know is false, but is useful is seeing how we arrived at the modern disciplines of psychology and astronomy. Much like alchemy spawned chemistry astrology played a part in initiating the science of astronomy. Looking at the parts of astrology that relate directly to astronomy, they were not bad for speculative guesses and the same goes for the psychological parts. It’s just that now we understand the two are not tied together at all. The idea that we were somehow controlled by the stars has been questioned ever since the idea was first proposed, to see it still being taught and practiced seriously in modern day when we know better is appalling. We should always dismiss astrology as 100% bullshit but this doesn’t mean the part it played in our history.

It is also important to consider the possibility of an as yet undiscovered force. To do this we have to look at Astrology at a more abstract level, which means disregarding all the various systems of astrology we have today or have had throughout history, and simply considering the possibility that there is a force that can have an impact on individuals born at certain times that is so far immeasurable. Well, that is extremely unlikely, but we can’t rule it out completely. By the same token, there is absolutely no reason to consider that as likely. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy does a pretty good job explaining why astrology could not possible be due to any known force or an unknown force here. I feel he prematurely dismisses that possibility of an unknown force by making a lot of assumptions about the hypothetical unknown force, however I don’t know nearly enough about physics or astronomy to say why he might be wrong.

While Astrology is often seen as harmless in reality it has consequences for society. It undermines real science and makes fighting pseudoscience such as this that much harder because people are not willing to accept that something given so much credibility may in fact be completely bunk. It makes it harder to defend vaccinations, to debunk homeopathy or anything similar. Ideally astrologers should be legally forced to have disclaimers saying astrology can only be considered as entertainment and there is no reason to take it seriously, although I don’t see that happening any time soon.

References

  1. http://www.randi.org/encyclopedia/astrology.html – Article on astrology from the Randi encyclopedia
  2. http://www.startribune.com/newsgraphics/113661579.html?elr=KArks7PYDiaK7DUoaK7D_V_eDc87DUiacyKUbPi87EK_g:D_GD7EaDh_0c:aD:aUr – Star Tribune article on new sign Ophiuchus
  3. http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/no-your-zodiac-sign-hasnt-changed/?hpt=C2 – CNN article explaining why peoples signs did not change.
  4. Forer effect – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Wiki page on the Forer effect
  5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1439101/Astrologers-fail-to-predict-proof-they-are-wrong.html – Article about the most comprehensive study done on astrology
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_effect – Wiki page on the Mars effect
  7. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/blogs/sceptic-science/do-women-want-to-believe-20110105-19fr2.html – Do more women believe in the paranormal than men?
  8. http://www.astrology-online.com/cancer.htm – Personality profile for Cancer.
  9. http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/astrology.html”> – Phil Plait on Astrology
  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haP7Ys9ocTk – YouTube – Derren Brown onAstrology
  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iunr4B4wfDA&feature=related YouTube – Carl Sagan on Astrology
  12. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=patternicity-finding-meaningful-patterns Interesting article about how people find patterns where there are none.

15 Comments »

  1. I have often found that people are surprised by a very, very simple experiment when it comes to astrology – the kind that describes your personality. The experiment is quite simple. You find all the traits that “applies” to you and write them down. Then you reverse the trait, that is, you find it’s opposite. After reversing it, you preface it with “not”, in other words, you are logically back to the original trait. For example “You are generous towards your friends” – make that the opposite “With friends, you are a cheap bastard”. Reverse it, “With friends you are not a cheap bastard”.

    Now the question becomes – who does NOT fit such a description?

    Comment by Terje — June 30, 2011 @ 2:02 am

  2. […] How do people consider Astrology seriously? (allthatiswrong.wordpress.com) […]

    Pingback by The Great Sidereal-Tropical Debate « Beyond the stars astrology — June 30, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  3. U knw wot bro u must b very studious person bt still nt educated…m nt disrespecting u at all…i respect u cuz u r doin a great work about universe bt wen it cums to astrology i must say u hvnt chckd it seriously…i want u to cum to india wid ur birth details n i promise u wil hv to change ur mind about astrology…i ws an athiest for some time…i do regret dat in my lyf…..astrology’s prediction made me believe in god and nw i cn see change in me and in my lyf…and u knw wot wen ul die ul get to knw wots da truth of dis world so u shud change urslef otherwise it will be too late and i understand dere is a bad moon in ur birth chart dats y u r lyk dis..well god has given u da bad moon cuz of bad karmas in ur past lifes bt in dis lyf also u r making a sin by nt believeing in him…so pls live ur lyf wid open eyes n b gutsy to accept da things which u believe in ur sub-concious mind.
    GAURAV

    Comment by Gaurav — July 7, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

    • Hi Gaurav,

      I don’t quite know what to say. While you think you may have seen evidence that astrology is accurate, I think that is extremely unlikely and there is a far simpler and more likely explanation.

      Have you considered any other possibilities for why your astrological reading seemed accurate?

      Comment by allthatiswrong — July 9, 2011 @ 2:40 am

  4. Hi,
    Yes i had considered much other possibilities of true predictions which kept on coming on my face when i was an athiest, i was taking them as coincidences and i even thot that astrology is a very cleverly created subject a long ago that tells something which fit to almost everybody but true predictions never stopped coming so at one point of time i had to give up. I am just 21 years old and i am diabatic since i was born may be but got to know about it when i was 15 or 16, wish and trust science can do something to heal type one daibaties so i will stop putting insulin injections daily two times into my tummy and my birth chart can tell that i will have blood related problems and LAL KITAAB ASTROLOGY told i would be an atheist. Now u can see why i had to change my mind about astrology and god and i hope u also believe in god cuz universe can’t be created from nothing, there has to be something which has always been existed to give everything a begnning and that has to be one supreme being called god and no doubt we will never find GOD physically GOD is not the one to be find physically. I DONT KNOW WHEATHER GOD WILL FORGIVE ME FOR MY SINS OR NOT I DONT WANNA THINK ABOUT IT BUT I AM SURE ONE DAY I WILL FIND GOD INSIDE ME.
    GAURAV.

    Comment by Gaurav — September 2, 2011 @ 6:06 am

  5. Your entire argument fell apart as soon as you mentioned that astrology is only based on sun signs and false horoscope predictions. Please don’t dismiss something as bs just because you have zero knowledge of the subject. This is the exact attitude some creationists have when debating evolution. They don’t understand it, so they claim that it’s full of ‘missing links’ because they’re looking at it from a skewed perspective.

    Ok first of, sun sign is important, but it merely represents your ego/overall personality. The sun is subject to other influences such as which house it falls in on your birth chart, and what other planets are aspecting it. Each person has a unique chart that includes the ascendant (your outer personality), sun sign, moon (emotional needs), and all of the planets in the solar system. The chart may also include asteroids and comets. Maybe you have a lot of earth or air in your chart, more fixed signs than mutable, or your Cancer sun is being influenced by a square or opposite aspect. That would explain why you don’t fit the emotional Cancer stereotype. I have a brother who is Libra. He isn’t a full blown Libra because of his Cancer moon, but he does show Libran traits such as wanting expensive goods and always worried about his appearance. I once told him he has Bieber hair and he stood in front of the bathroom mirror for ten minutes trying to fix it – he’s still subconsciously worried about it. He’s also hurt easily, a Cancer moon trait.

    That’s just the basics of natal chart. On top of that, you have synastry and composites that look at how other people influence your actions and personality. I’m a magnet for Libras and Leos, even though I’m a Virgo with social anxiety. I had no idea why, I only knew I disliked boring people. I started studying more in astrology and surprise surprise, my mercury is Leo, ascendant is Libra and mars is Gemini. Libras help me open up and I have tons of fun with them. They’ll never understand my emotional or intellectual needs, but at least we can be indecisive air-heads together.

    Astrology does not claim that anything is set in stone. You have free-will and environmental factors that play into your personality as well. For example, homosexuality isn’t purely genetics, sometimes it’s a choice (Google Cynthia Nixon). I agree that it’s foolish to base all of your life decisions on horoscopes or natal charts, but sometimes it helps to take a step back and evaluate yourself from different angles. I have a very difficult aspect, Mercury opposite Saturn linked to Mars in the 9th house, that makes it hard to communciate clearly. I always come off as an egotistical know-it-all even though I dunno what the hell I’m talking about (like right now lol). When people aren’t impressed, I get defensive and emotional. Thus, resulting in even more social anxiety. I’ve since learned to appeal to the good side of mars by taking anthropology classes that challenge me to get outside more and interact with people from different cultures.

    —————-

    TL;DR: I urge you and whoever is reading this comment to read about real astrology, and avoid the mainstream crap from astrology.com. You don’t have to believe it, but being knowledgable AND open-minded will help strengthen your anti-astrology arguments.

    Comment by mopface — February 23, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    • I love this

      Comment by Ranique smith — July 10, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

    • Loser.

      Comment by J — September 16, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

  6. Admiring the persistence you put into your blog and in depth information you present.
    It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same
    outdated rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds
    to my Google account.

    Comment by Bernie — February 6, 2013 @ 6:44 am

    • You can argue against almost anything that depends so much on practice and
      study when you have not done so your self. Attacking beliefs is ok by me. However, there are some things based on “the experiential” and making discoveries, well beyond chance, that point to different groupings of people by “interest” or profession, etc. as practiced by many astronomers centuries ago and to a lesser degree today. However, there are astronomers who have long studied and practice this “art”. They do not necessarily subscribe to categorizing people or making predictions, but often learn to trust knowledge and deeper understanding derived from both sides of the brain. Like “healers” including some MDs who have made it their life quest to discover other means to make their patients well….they have their own discoveries they may share with like minded healers. So it is with “counselors” who seek knowledge and understanding not always part of the scientific establishment. There are a few serious experiments in Astrology as by the noted Statistician, Michel_Gauquelin. It proves at least one aspect of astrology has validity. It does not take away from the more powerful, deeper personal experiences from years of practicing the art.

      Astrology, with a deeper knowledge and understanding, in the hands of someone
      wise and intelligent can be extremely helpful in understanding an individual
      seeking psychological help in their lives. The key is not in defining how someone
      supposedly behaves because they have this or that planet in this or that “house”
      or sign, with this or that planetary relationship etc…or far worse…defining people
      and behavior based on sun sign astrology! The key is using what you have discovered as one more tool in your bag of tools as a psychologist or
      some other evolved counselor. You can be an empathetic counselor armed with
      more powerful tool to aid another in bringing meaning and purpose into their
      life. Could it be used to manipulate and control people? Lots of different practices can be used for that.

      Comment by Lawrence Gray — April 13, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

  7. I do love how people dispute whatever they cannot at this moment, logically understand with their own little personal given state of knowledge, experience, etc. This is really the problem with the scientific approach–that is the common assumption it leads misguided people to: that if we cannot prove something, it must not be true. How much more faith this assumption requires than something like astrology, the complexities of which, if honestly examined, will lead to a reasonable trust. You cannot discount something you truly know nothing of; your “research” of the Cancer sun sign is laughable. Wherever you got your information, most of it is terribly off. Aside from that, when considering it astrologically, analyzing a person in terms of their sun sign is like analyzing a human’s physical appearance in terms of only hair color. “She is blonde, that’s what she looks like.” Do you know what she looks like based on such a description? Absolutely not! Why, because billions of blonde people exist and most of them look very unique from one another. People are far, far more intricate and complex externally and internally–each individual so much so that you could not possibly ever completely understand them.
    Why do people like you feel this need to attack the mysteries of the universe due to so called “scientific thinking”? So many scientists have been right until proven wrong. But advanced physics is more and more coming to a crossing point with metaphysics, and those who choose to see a black and white, physically limiting universe are left at arm’s length from our modern conclusions, and they will become more archaic than the study of alchemy you reference.
    If you really want to critique astrology, fine–at least know your stuff. Go get a reading, from a well practiced, highly recommended astrologer. They don’t have to be famous, they just have to be good. Just like you’d seek out a good lawyer or a good doctor. Tell them nothing about yourself aside from your birth data. Let them do a reading. Ask questions, and give no information. Really put it to the test. Your google searches are no way of judging this craft.
    Same goes for the “Forer effect.” Totally bogus way of judging astrology. Astrology is endlessly more specific than the list of statements it uses to make its point. Go to an astrologer and you’ll find that out quite quickly. A good astrologer can describe, predict, and validate with very specific detail and confidence. The problem with these scientific studies such as your “Forer” effect study isn’t the virtue of science itself, but the very inaccurate and poor simulation produced by the scientists. They’re desperate for proof, or especially for disproof of anything mystical and purely “unscientific” according to them (now we see egos are at stake here–ah human nature). At any rate, as a result, they’ll try so hard to create in a lab what can only truly be created under natural circumstances. Then they’ll extract some claim out of their inadequate testing so they can be published in some magazine article.
    Yet the real scientists are coming around to our metaphysical side of things. Oh yes. Go read up on quantum mechanics a little bit–then tell me you think everything we know can fit in a neat little box that weeds out all that is mystical…
    Anyway. My point… There is a synchronicity to all things–our genetic structure, our world, our nature, our dreams–and our universe. There is a vibration, there is a meaningfulness to it. Having studied astrology for a little while and metaphysics as well, I can say that these riddles are far beyond me–but I’ve crossed them enough to be certain of them. What are you afraid of? You need a little understanding to back of your certainties and your claims. Otherwise they are just as ill founded as you would say us astrologers are.

    Comment by A — May 30, 2013 @ 1:28 am

  8. I completely agree with you on astrology, and find it completely lacking evidence. However you should not put it in the same category with religion. Granted there are some faiths quite similar to it, however other religions have evidence, unlike astrology. That faith is blind, whilst some religious faiths are not. One must not group them together with astrology.

    Comment by ALP — August 5, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

  9. People are idiots.
    According to astrology people with the same birthdays should have identical personalities, and somehow the time of year you are born in affects how you act for the rest of your life. Every time astrology has been tested it has failed the test completely, just like all those psychics and clairvoyants and dowsers. The sad thing is, the people who claim to be psychics and whatnot often truly believe what they are saying.
    We like to think we are so intelligent…

    Comment by MegaSolipsist — November 2, 2013 @ 4:04 am

  10. …I just wanted to comment on your cancer traits you feel you aren’t connect with , first of all ..you don’t NEED to have every single triat that is says I mean have an opened mind here for god sakes …everyone is different that’s a god giving fact duh . Just because you don’t have every single trait giving under the cancer zodiac doesn’t mean you need to doubt it completely , I am also a cancer ..I fit all of those and more ..I am a cancer sun Leo AS and a Capricorn moon , I have other zodiacs in which astogoly says are my houses ..for Example my 4th house the (home) I have Scorpio …now another cancer I know me and her are completely different we’re both cancers yes we have the same traits here and there but we are farly different she’s a cancer sun Scoropio AS a Gemini moon ….in her 4th house is Libra …she reacts to certain things differently than I do even tho we are of the same sun sign being our soul sign …there’s a lot of things to consider when looking at astrology …not just the basic Cancer sign or the basic horoscope …remember that each indeviseal on this planet are always and will always be unique ..

    Comment by Ranique smith — July 10, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

  11. […] How do people consider Astrology seriously? (allthatiswrong.wordpress.com) […]

    Pingback by The Great Tropical-Sidereal Debate | Beyond The Stars Astrology and Tarot — July 18, 2015 @ 11:49 am


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