Further objections to astrology

Do the constellations exist? Well, yes and no. Obviously, to the naked human eye, a few specks of light on a dark screen may suggest a pattern. One sees a lion, a ladle, an archer. These forms are vague at best. At worst, they are the products of our innate ability to find patterns in everything. Here is an outline of Leo.

Now this doesn’t look terribly much like a lion, does it? But we can easily see (as long as the dots are connected for us) how the mind can make out the vague outline of some lazing animal. There are the haunches, there is a neck, and a head is suggested by the final upper curve. But why a lion? It could just as easily be a housecat, or a St. Bernard. Or nothing at all, which is what it is.

Let’s pretend we can travel across the constellation Leo to it’s far side and look at it from there. What would we see? The lion’s left side? Consider that when seen from the perspective of another part of the galaxy, any suggestion of a lion would simply disappear. What we are looking at is not a pattern of white dots on a flat black surface, but stars caught in what is perhaps a kind of four-dimensional space. The science of topology seeks to understand things like the shape of the universe. Here is an example of a topological coffee mug.

Now, I’m no cosmologist, nor am I a topologist, mathematician or even philosopher. I don’t have to be to understand the basic principle that the constellations are mere optical illusions. Consequently, so is astrology. Here is a paragraph from “Obections to Astrology,” published in The Humanist in 1975:

“In ancient times people believed in the predictions and advice of astrologers because astrology was part and parcel of their magical world view. They looked upon celestial objects as abodes or omens of the gods and, thus, intimately connected with events here on earth; they had no concept of the vast distances from the earth to the planets and stars. Now that these distances can and have been calculated, we can see how infinitesimally small are the gravitational and other effects produced by the distant planets and the far more distant stars. It is simply a mistake to imagine that the forces exerted by stars and planets at the moment of birth can in any way shape our futures. Neither is it true that the position of distant heavenly bodies make certain days or periods more favorable to particular kinds of action, or that the sign under which one was born determines one’s compatibility or incompatibility with other people.”

I used to be fixated with astrology. I had a girlfriend who was into it at the time (for all I know she still is), and I came to recognize that Virgins are rather anal retentive, Cancer men are annoyingly self-obsessed, and Leos are natural-born leaders. It even appeared that facial characteristics conformed to a ziodiacal predisposition: Leos had a wide, grinning visage; Arians had a pronounced “t-zone” (resembling a ram’s horns); Sagittarians had a tendency toward red hair and freckles (think “fiery”). All of the above examples were taken from our circle of friends, and I took astrology for a kind of rough social science. I never pursued it further afield, and eventually I lost interest in it.

The zodiac is child’s play when you consider what stars are really out there. Even a weak telescope will convince you of this, but our most powerful telescopes are simply overwhelming. Here is a Hubble image worth scrutinizing.

Suddenly, in this bath of light from a million stars (no, I haven’t counted them), all hints of design simply disappear. There is no archer lost in the woods, no lazing lion, no bears or anything else here but a cluster of stars about 10,400 light years away from Earth. In our galaxy there are billions of stars. Carl Sagan’s voice ricochets down the ages, “Billions and billions.”

Yet many people speak of astrological signs as if they were an accepted barometer of social compatibility. “Oh, you just can’t get along with Libra men. Trust me, my ex-husband was a Libra.” But as the constellation of Libra is an obvious fiction, and as astrology itself has been widely discredited by actual scientific discoveries, then what can it mean to call oneself a Libra, a Capricorn or a Virgo? They are nothing but a kind of folk religion, a link to a more ignorant past when princes summoned the court astrologer for a prediction of famine, or whether or not to invade a neighboring land if Venus is rising. Astrology is on par with crystal balls, tarot cards, fortune telling and all the other types of silliness human beings should be mature enough to laugh at.

“Objections to Astrology” concludes: “It should be apparent that those individuals who continue to have faith in astrology do so in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary.”

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7 thoughts on “Further objections to astrology

  1. Unfortunately your observation has nothing to do with astrology so therefore it can not be used as an “objection to astrology.”

    It is true that at one time the constellations lined up with the Equinoxes, with 0 Aries being the first day of spring. But as anyone with a smidgeon of astronomical or astrological knowledge knows, due to precession, this no longer holds true and hasn’t for thousands of years. It was decided 2,000 years ago in the agrarian societies of the time that it was more important to keep track of time by the seasons rather than the constellations. The 30 degree slices of the zodiac starting with 0 Aries and moving along to 30 degree Pisces retained the meanings associated with the constellations, but were forever divorced from the constellations movements. And despite the fact that the tropical zodiac does not align with the constellations of today, the characteristics of we associate with those zodiac signs hold true today, suggesting that it is the movement of the sun through the wheel of the year, not the constellations themselves that give each of the zodiac signs their special joie de vivre.

    You, of course, have the right to believe whatever you wish, but I’m afraid you are going to have to dig a bit deeper for a better defense against astrology.

  2. “What is “astrological knowledge”? Is it like theology?”

    Lol.

    Of course if you don’t know what astrology is or its theories or its principles, then it seems like it would be rather hard for you to form objections to it.

    1. That’s kind of the point I was making. What are the theories and principles of theology, homeopathy or astrology? We who object to these things do so because there is no evidence that they are in any way true. They make claims they can’t back up with evidence. That’s what we are objecting to: the idea of magic.

  3. First. Who told you that astrology’s claims aren’t backed by evidence? I think you need to look at that one before swallowing that assumption.

    Let me ask you another question. Is not much of science (in its present state) based on observation?

    Let me ask you another question. Do not students, teachers, and researchers and theorists of various disciplines within the scientific realms accept the observations and conclusions of the practitioners and researchers of other scientific disciplines without resorting to calling their work a pseudoscience or other derogatory remarks?

    Astrology, unlike many modern sciences has thousands of years of observation behind its theories and practices. It is not “magic” or “wishful thinking” nor are its theories and practices hidden in a veil of secrecy. Its is all out there, for anyone wishing to investigate it if they so chose. Just because it’s mechanisms are not understood, it does not invalidate it. If you do then do you wish to call gravity “magic” because its mechanism is not understood by current scientific theory?

    I am not qualified to speak on matters of theology, (though like you I have my opinions) or homeopathy, because I have not studied those matters like I have with astrology, so I will not comment on them.

    1. Beth, the consensus among those who study the universe scientifically – called astronomers, cosmologists, astrophysicists etc… – is that astrology is a pseudoscience. They don’t say this to be mean, but because there is little or no scientific evidence to back up its claims. If there were, don’t you think it would be accepted by mainstream, evidence-based science? Yet this emphatically is not the case.

      You are using the argument from ignorance coupled with the argument from antiquity. Both of these are considered fallacies and in no way prove that astrology is anything more than wishful thinking. Of course I’m open to any persuasive evidence you might have to the contrary.

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