Horoscopes are still pseudoscience

By Jeremy Fejfar, January 19, 2011

I was disappointed to see articles in the Tribune about the possible addition of another zodiac sign. It’s also disheartening that the newspaper still prints horoscopes.

I find it amazing that anyone out there lends the slightest credence to the idea that the position of the planet at ones’ birth has any effect on their personality traits or future.

William Hirschel discovered Uranus in 1781. Scientists later noticed some peculiarities in the way Uranus orbited, and through mathematical calculations, they determined it was due to the gravitational tug of an undiscovered planet. They were able to calculate the location of the planet, and in 1846 Neptune was discovered.

This is the power of science over pseudoscience. Science makes testable predictions that can then be analyzed. If the planets had any real effect on us, shouldn’t astrologers have predicted the existence of Uranus and Neptune? After the discovery of these planets, astrologers have integrated them into their charts.

It was later observed that Mercury has a disturbed orbit as well, and it was postulated that there may be another planet nearby, dubbed Vulcan. Astrologers, not wanting to be embarrassed again, rushed to incorporate Vulcan in their astrological charts. After further scientific study, real scientists demonstrated that Vulcan does not exist, but the orbital irregularities are due to its close proximity to the sun.

Astrology, like all pseudoscience, is a waste of time and it detracts from the true majesty and complexity of the universe by injecting its own brand of magical thinking.

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2 Responses to Horoscopes are still pseudoscience

  1. Personally, I call it the Grand Coincidence, for it broke the back of my reductionist atheism.
    Coincidence was instrumental in my graduation first to agnostic, then to a religion of my own based on observable reproducible science.
    Astrology is not really reproducible, in that it is far to subjective and intuitive, but for some of us it has predictive seeming capabilities.
    It is hard for me to explain except to say that I am very much typic of my horoscope, which is heavily Sagittarian, and that this coincidence has convinced me that reductionism is essentially very limited compared to it’s recent historical cultural power.

    Ultimately, things must be attempted to be understood in the context of Allness, although it seems the human brain is not really capable of comprehension of things in a larger context than as they relate to human life on Earth.

    I am consistently galled by my sporadic interest in astrology, because it seems to give explanation and prediction to otherwise impenetrable relations between people and cultures.

    It is no explanation or prediction at all, but yet is otherwise a very psuedo, and very scientific body of thought, carefully built upon a more sustained set of observations than any other organized study.

    Yet, the basis for such explanations are so very weak in implying any causal relations.

    I can wrap my head around the possibility of the universe, or even the galaxy, exerting some unobserved influence on some theoretic mechanism of brain or mind, but Pluto???

    Some of the most interesting yet frustrating, for me, things are the “new” planets. Smaller bodies than Pluto have been added to the mix, and I find them useful!!! AAARG!

    I’ve decided that it is just a great coincidence that works for me in much the same way that religions like Tibetan Buddhism does for those who believe it. They are both very much psuedo sciences where people have systematized and explored subjective experiences of reality for thousands of years before the word science came about.

    Science very specifically does not explore subjective reality very well, but does excel at correlating some subjective experiences with observable repeatable, “objective” reality.

    Ultimately, I don’t care if there is an objectively real component to astrology, it brings me comfort despite my complete lack of any capacity to believe it.

    Ultimately, I consider there to be a border between science and subjective experience, and I consider both valid fields of human explorations.

    It remains hard for me to say in a meaningful way, but I believe there can be a shared science of religion, but that it can never be proven, because it is based on coincidence.

    To the degree that I am not an atheist, it is almost entirely due to something that I consider a coincidence pointing towards meaning. What the nature of, or degree of, actual existence, objectively, of such things is, I have become comfortable with “knowing” there are things we cannot fathom effectively with human minds, esp in terms of infinities, space, time, and purpose.

    When we have built a brain, and a picture, that can understand the arrow of time, and when we understand how the brain produces conscious observation and thought, then we can begin to discuss these things intelligently. Until then, I will settle, very occasionally, for miraculously inspiring Grand Coincidences and an attempt at unifying the most salient aspects of subjective and objective, of religious experience and scientific reasoning, of mutually exclusive words, like science and astrology, as best I can.

    Belief, to me, is not important, behavior is what matters.
    Astrology is part of this conviction. It does not explain itself yet gives me effective insight into some people’s behaviors and feelings, mine often included.

    I am a strict materialist in every sense that I am spiritual.
    So, it is no small consolation to me that the planets and stars probably actually do exist, but also not much comfort to my need to understand.

    There is no doubt in my mind that modern physics MAY be interpreted to mean the universe we know is all one piece intimately interconnected to all other pieces; but there is also no doubt that such is only one subjective interpretation of the relatively objective yet impenetrable mathematics we have discovered.

    Regardless of the mechanism or means of such, when one feels one is in communication with Allness about things that matter to one, not much in the way of scientific, or objective, “proof” is going to be effective in convincing one otherwise.

    Until we have a better definition of a conscious mind, such arguments are largely moot, but we are making great incremental progress in just this regard.

  2. Dan Eumurian says:

    Monte, you sound like an interesting and intelligent guy. It was said of Austin Farrer, the Oxford philosophical theologian on whom I wrote my master’s thesis, that he was, to use sailing terminology, “tacking towards the truth.” That is, you might say, bouncing from one light pole to another, picking up bits of light along the way. I’ve written a song about the process, called “Coming Closer to the Wind.”

    Charles Strohmer was once a high-ranking astrologer. He has written the book _What Your Horoscope Doesn’t Tell You_. He identifies three levels of astrology, from the comics-page variety to a very serious, though misguided form. He believes, and I believe, that serious astrology taps into the spiritual world, but that Jesus, whom you reference above, offers a stronger and healthier spirituality.

    If you would care to look up a copy of Strohmer’s book and read it, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about it. I’d also be happy to send you the lyrics to my song if you like.

    Best wishes,
    Dan Eumurian