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:
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?
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.