2/12/2011

Do you believe in Astrology?

Have you ever seen a newspaper headline, "Psychic Wins Lottery"? Or, "Astrologer Wins Lottery"?
In one poll, 31% of Americans expressed a belief in astrology and, according to another study, 39% considered it scientific.
The core beliefs of astrology were prevalent in parts of the ancient world and are epitomized in the Hermetic maxim, "as above, so below". Tycho Brahe used a similar phrase to summarize his studies in astrology: suspiciendo despicio, "by looking up I see downward". Although the principle that events in the heavens are mirrored by those on Earth was once generally held in most traditions of astrology around the world, in the West there has historically been a debate among astrologers over the nature of the mechanism behind astrology. In other words, the so-called experts cannot even agree how to practice it!
Predictive astrology, in the Western tradition, employs two main methods: astrological transits and astrological progressions. In astrological transits the ongoing movements of the planets are interpreted for their significance as they transit through space and the horoscope. In astrological progressions the horoscope is progressed forward in time according to set methods.
Both approaches are hoaxes.  Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson asserted that "astrology was discredited 600 years ago with the birth of modern science. To teach it as though you are contributing to the fundamental knowledge of an informed electorate is astonishing in this, the 21st century". 
Studies have repeatedly failed to demonstrate statistically significant relationships between astrological predictions and operationally defined outcomes. Effect size tests of astrology-based hypotheses conclude that the mean accuracy of astrological predictions is no greater than what is expected by chance. One study of 2000 astrological "time twins" born within minutes of each other did not show a celestial influence on human characteristics.
Here are some ideas to help you understand why Astrology is a pseudoscience and a hoax:
  • Pretend you are a different star sign when around someone who knows a good deal about astrology. See if they guess the incorrect star sign that you are pretending to be.
  • Read the daily or weekly horoscope. Compare other star signs to yours. Notice how many of them will have a general statement that will, most likely, apply to your individual situation. Nearly all daily newspaper horoscopes are not carefully constructed, and in fact many are generated randomly.
  • Notice the generalizations among those who practice or believe in astrology. People interpret the same text in different ways to suit them best. Star signs tend to reflect generalizations about regular human behaviors. Study the common generalizations about the signs and try to guess the signs of people you may know. Then, compare their real sign to the one you believed them to have. Are you correct?
  • Do some research into the Forer effect, named after psychologist Bertram R. Forer, who demonstrated the propensity of people to believe that vaguely worded personality "profiles" (which could apply to anybody) were accurate, custom-tailored profiles.
  • Find out about sun sign astrology. The most popular form of traditional Western astrology is sun sign astrology, the kind found in the horoscopes of many daily newspapers. If it were indeed accurate, its predictive value would be extremely high; but that has, historically, not been the case, for societies would be using it in powerful ways, consistently, as that would be the true test.
  • Because of the precession of the equinoxes, the equinox and solstice points have each moved westward about 30 degrees in the last 2,000 years. Thus, the zodiacal constellations named in ancient times no longer correspond to the segments of the zodiac represented by their signs. In short, had you been born at the same time on the same day of the year 2,000 years ago, you would have been born under a different sign. In fact, there should be 13 signs, not 12. It is this fact of precession which has altered the very constellations from which masses "derive" their charts.
  • Think about the similarities between astrology and racism. They both operate on the principle that a person's behavior is based on how they were born instead of who they are. Though most astrology readings are parlor tricks pointing out the most general positive qualities in a person, it follows that if you believe a person is introspective because they were born in December, then you can also buy into the foolish idea that a person is lazy because of the color of their skin.
Astrology has many characteristics in common with Global Warming Theory alarmist "science”. They both use incomplete or erroneous pseudo-science in order to come up with predictions that have little or no scientific basis. And, they both operate under the "fear factor", passing themselves off as authoritative when in fact they are not.