Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: Astrology Part 2: Reality

In Part 1 of today's midweek cuckoo i discussed why phsychologically we tend to believe horoscopes. This assumed that they are not in fact based on a working model of prediction and rely on human tendencies towards self-flattery to work. But where do I get off assuming they don't work? So in this entry i'm going to examine why, if astrology obeys its own rules, it cannot possibly work.


For astrology to be able to make reliable and consistent predictions for the future, it must itself be reliable and consistent. If the rules that govern astrological principles are random or arbitrary, it loses any ability to make predictions, and therefore any value outside of flim flam. So we are going assume that the rules of astrology are consistent, and then show how this cannot be true if they relate in any way to the real world.

I'll be basing my review on the concept that the position of the sun, moon, planets and stars at the time of your birth affect your personality and can be used to predict future events. For this to be true, the method in which these real heavenly bodies affect you must be consistent (or no astrologer would ever be able to make the supposedly 'reliable' calculations they do when creating your chart).

I'll address why this cannot be true one example at a time:

The Zodiac

One of the principles of your star sign or zodiac sign is that it is supposedly decided by the constellation the sun was rising in at the time of your birth. In other words, if you are a Virgo it is because the sun was in Virgo on the day you were born.

This has no relation to reality. Astrology uses 2000-year old star maps that have changed since they were drawn up. The axis of earth has a wobble in it, like a spinning top. This wobble (called precession) causes the signs of the zodiac to shift with respect to the sun over time. People born on September 1 for example are not actually Virgo, they're Leo. They would have been Virgos in 140 AD, but it's not 140 AD now is it?

In addition, there is actually a 13th sign of the zodiac, Ophiuchus the Snake Handler. The sun rises in Ophiuchus from December 1 to December 18, which is about three times as long as it spends rising in Scorpio. So you can see that the supposed 'sign' you are given has absolutely no bearing on the rules that supposedly decide you're that sign. If the positions of these heavenly bodies really do affect your personality, then why haven't astrologers noticed that every single one of their readings is out by at least one sign of the zodiac?

See what sign you really are here.

The Outer Planets

In addition to the stars and sun, the positions of the planets are meant to be important to your horoscope. Ignoring for now effects of mass and distance, each planet is supposedly as important as the other in its effects.

So here's the question: why didn't astrologers discover Uranus, Neptune and Pluto before astronomers? If their effect on horoscopes is so important, didn't astrologers notice that every single horoscope cast before 1950 was wrong? And if they weren't wrong, that means the outermost planets aren't important after all. If so, why do they include them now? And what about the new 10th planet? Since it hasn't been included yet, does that mean all current horoscopes are wrong?

Distance and Extra-Solar Planets

Lets assume for now that not discovering the outer planets was some crazy mistake, and that all the planets that are equally important in casting horoscopes. If this is so, then distance cannot possibly be a factor. But if distance is a factor, why don't planets around other stars affect us? That they are far away should not matter - pluto is as important as mars to astrologers despite the differences in both mass and distance, so neither of these can be a factor. And we are discovering new planets every single day. Even if only a tiny fraction of stars in the universe have planets, if distance is not a factor then in total they should be utterly drowning out the effects of our local planets. It would be like whispering at a concert.

Local Solar System Only

Lets assume for some reason only local bodies affect us, and we can ignore other solar systems. We know mass is not a factor, because Jupiter and Pluto are just as important as each other. We know composition is not a factor, for the same reason (Jupiter is all gas, Pluto is mostly rock and ice). Now, just beyond the orbit of Pluto sits the Kuiper belt, filled with millions and millions of planetoids that are composed exactly like Pluto, are about the same size as Pluto, and are about the same distance as Pluto. Even if distance, composition and mass were all important to astrology, every single on of these Kuiper belt objects should have a measurable effect on us, just like Pluto does. And there is only one Pluto, and millions of these Kuiper belt objects, so again we are in the position of one little effect being drowned out by many others. When you add in all the comets, and all the asteroids, they outweigh in every sense the effects of the planets. Yet no horoscope takes them into account.

The Moment of Birth

All this aside, natal astrology is based on the idea that this measurable influence only starts affecting you at the moment of your birth. Why? It can supposedly penetrate thousands of miles of rock to get to you (i.e. when you're born at night the sun has to be affecting you through the entire thickness of the earth) but it cannot penetrate an inch of meat that is all that stands between you and fresh air? Never mind that this doesn't make sense, it would mean that if your horoscope says you're going to have a bad day, just step into a sphere made of steak and the universe will not be able to affect you. Granted, spending your day in a steak ball may be considered to be a bad day.


Any which way you twist the rules, the measurable, observable universe will refute them. I haven't invoked a single law of physics here, only common sense you can work out for yourself at home. Believe me if i started talking laws of nature, the ammunition only gets better on my side. The only conclusion is that astrology on one hand claims that the observable universe affects your life in a measurable and predictable way, and on the other hand cannot decide on a single rule for prediction or measurement that is reliable or reflective of reality. So we are left with the simple conclusion:

Either astrology is wrong, or it is so inconsistent as to be utterly devoid of any kind of predictive value.

I hope i've covered all the bases, but if i've left anything out, please leave a comment.


Blogger totalwaste said...

ah - can i leave a comment if i don't think you've left anything out?

ooh - how about: where does the base data come from that teaches astrologers what each cosmic micro-shift means? or is that just my ignancy? (ignorance, for those here who speaks adda-eengleesh)

thank you for a good, and insightful, laugh.

February 02, 2006 12:37 AM  
Anonymous Fianna said...

I'll say to you what I've been saying to nay sayers for the last 30 years -- if you are willing to spend time studying astrology until you know what it is you are looking at, then you will have the knowledge to understand whether it works or not. Astrology is all about energy flows. There are basic energy streams that channel through all of us, some easily and some more difficult for us to handle. As our consciousness expands, so does our ability to handle higher vibrations of energy. The discovery of this new planet is exciting because it means we, as human beings, are reaching a new level of consciousness and the most enlightened of us will now be able to tap into this new vibration.

Also, a natal astrological chart is a picture snapped at the moment of birth and has to do with synchronicity, not with influences (read some Jungian psychology if you are unfamiliar with synchronicity). The chart shows the energy you have at your disposal and as your chart progresses through your lifetime, it shows the energy flows that will move in and out of your life and how you will evolve in your ability to handle such energy.

Also, if you had actually studied astrology, you would know that "fixed" stars have influences, and sometimes very strong influences, on the chart.

Like I said, if you don't study it, you can't possibly know what you're talking about. And not all things in the universe fit into a nice little definition.


February 07, 2006 8:51 PM  
Blogger moonflake said...

Saying you need to study astrology to know whether horoscopes work or not is like saying you need to study the bible to know whether or not fossils existed 6000 years ago. At the end of the day it is evidence that counts, and the evidence is not on your side, fianna. And considering that I've spent 6 years of my life studying astrophysics, i certainly know more about the evidence.

Even when astologers actively participate in setting up tests of their 'science', they cannot show that it works. They have failed time and time again. Read some of the links i posted. Also, new planets do not suddenly leap into existence at the moment of discovery; they were always there, so the 'vibration' was always there. Why couldn't those of you who are 'enlightened' tap into it before? You had to wait for a scientist to give you permission? You should be able to see that it doesn't make sense.

Also, you may want to be careful about quoting Jung and synchronicity,in serious philosophical circles Jung is widely regarded as a quack, and 'synchronicity' was just his attempt to explain coincidences that were personally meaninful to him. Quoting Jung on synchronicity is like quoting Ptolemy on geocentrism.

And no, the universe does not fit into a nice little definition. That's why science is so much more complicated than astrology - we're actually trying to discover the universe as it is, rather than define it the way we'd like it to be.

February 08, 2006 10:11 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home