• Skeptical About Astrology: Dealing With Horoscopes

    Since about a quarter of people in the US and even more in some countries in Western Europe continue to believe in the powers of astrological prediction, it makes sense to some degree that the blog website Patheos would start up an astrology section in their spirituality section. And since, according to one post there, Saturn the teacher is moving into Scorpio today, I’ll talk a bit about this.

    First off, the planet Saturn is currently not in the constellation of Scorpio today, tomorrow, or any time soon. It’s really not, go check for yourself.Right now it is in Virgo, which isn’t even adjacent to Scorpio in the Zodiac. So why this astronomically wrong statement? There is the system of precession of the equinoxes, the movement of where the sun in on the equinoxes relative to the constellations. It is due to the wobbling of the Earth in a 26,000 year cycle. It was first discovered by Hipparchus of Rhodes in the 2nd century BCE, though this is better known through the works of the great ancient astronomer and astrologer Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria (2nd century CE). And it was around this time that the fixed system that did not track the actual stars of the visible constellations. So when astrologers talk about Scorpio, it is not the actual constellation, but instead the sign of Scorpio, which happened to conform to the position of Scorpio ~2000 years ago.

    That’s all a bit strange, but it is derivative of the idea that the position of the equinoxes is what assigned domains in the sky, each with their given properties and powers, so the signs (what used to be constellations) track the movement of the equinoxes. So, signs =/= constellations, you can’t just look up but you need some calculations. I highlight this since skeptics will point this out as if astrologers don’t know about precession.

    But this can be rather pointless if astrology doesn’t make accurate or even precise predictions. Fred Clark of the same blogging network has a simple testing procedure:

    When someone asks what your sign is, tell them you’re an Aries (unless you really arean Aries, in which case, tell them something else).

    If they respond with a detailed description of why that’s appropriate and why, yes, you do seem to embody the classic characteristics of an Aries, admit that you were lying. Tell them you’re not really an Aries, but actually a Gemini (unless you really are a Gemini).

    If they tell you that lying about your sign was a very Gemini thing to have done, and then explain how this just confirms that you really are such a total Gemini, interrupt to say that you were once again lying.

    In theory, you could keep this up, repeating the process 11 times. My personal record was four rounds.

    The same point was stated by Hemant Metha and nicely made by astronomer Neil deGrasee Tyson:

    The basic point is that newspaper horoscopes and other Sun sign astrologers very blatantly use statements that can fit anyone yet feel specific (see the Forer effect). So based on the things said, you are just as much a Gemini as much a Taurus as much an Aries, etc. But even the “good” or “real” astrologers are not less guilty of this. Worse though, if you test them, they will fail. That I made a point of in my own video some time ago:

    So, in honor of Saturn, I have completed my Sunday education round. And I get to do some more on Monday, though it will deal with real science.

    [This post can also be found on Aaron’s own blog. Massive thanks for his contributions here.]

    Category: Skepticism


    Article by: Aaron Adair