My horoscopes today have promised me a strong ability to communicate with others so I decided to write this post. About 25-30% of people in the US believe in astrology while millions more don’t really accept it yet still love reading about horoscopes or people’s signs. Astrology is particularly popular with women and men are often encouraged to learn and talk about signs as easy pickup lines. Despite its popularity, astrology is roundly condemned in the world of science by such skeptics as Richard Dawkins and Penn Jillette ( Teller is also probably against it, but I heard Penn cut out his tongue). While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the orbit of Mercury is dictating my happiness on a day-to-day basis, astrology’s fundamental conclusion may be more scientific than many skeptics may want to acknowledge.
What is Astrology?
I should start by asking what exactly is the theory of astrology and whether it can be broken down into levels of interpretation. At its most literal, saying that the movements of distant planets and stars correlate with events in people’s lives on Earth, astrology might as well be a Nigerian prince. There is absolutely no evidence nor plausible scientific explanation for this type of silly action at a distance. In other words, daily horoscopes are a ridiculous thing to believe in and studies have shown this over and over. However, what about an interpretation that says astrology that links personality with a particular constellation in the night sky? If you take that to mean that constellations influence your personality then of course, it’s just as ridiculous as the literal interpretation – your sign does not dictate your personality unless you let it. Yet if we abstract it even further and simply say that astrological signs correlate with different personalities then the bullshit starts to peel away.
A Scientific Foundation for Astrological Beliefs
If we define astrology as the classification and grouping of different people by when they were born using markers in the sky, then a strong scientific case emerges. Consider this: different astrological symbols are essentially just markers for the time of the year. A scientific explanation rests on the fact that astrological signs might as well just serve as labels for time spans on the calendar while removing any causality from the heavens as well as any direct impact of daily events. Someone remarking about the compatibility between Cancers and Virgos might actually have a point as it can correlate to personality differences from different seasonal births rather than with patterns in the sky. In any region of the world, astrological symbols will correlate with different seasons which bring different climates and weather. This in turn influences daily aspects of life, like what foods are available, how much sunlight there is, and how much sleep people get. Scientific studies in turn show that these factors translate into differences during pregnancy for the mother, and during the formative years after the baby is born. Astrology may be seen as taking the simple question of how the time of year that someone is born affects their personality – a perfectly valid scientific question. And indeed science has provided some answers already. A study published 2 years ago notes a “seasonal imprinting” on our biological clocks that can account for personality differences between individuals. While it does not dictate a person’s emotional state or personality traits, there is a significant correlation between seasonal birth and someone’s mental and physical health. For instance, those born in the winter months are more prone to psychological disorders like schizophrenia.
If astrology is re-interpreted as correlating personality with seasons, by way of constellations in the sky, then I see no reason to call it unfounded. However, the mystic methodology that bloomed from this basic understanding is certainly unscientific and unfounded. Stars and planets have no determinative effect on our daily lives on this planet and anyone preaching such a message is either a fool or a charlatan. Yet often pseudoscientific enterprises are based on some basic truth and in this case maybe some relationships simply are probablistically doomed from the start based on which season they were born.