Yes, I do. We call this the post hoc fallacy in my neighborhood. In its psychological form, astrology is a type of New Age therapy used for self-understanding and personality analysis astrotherapy. In all forms, astrology is a manifestation of magical thinking. Ivan Kelly, who has written many articles critical of astrology, thinks that astrology. Modern advocates of astrology cannot account for the underlying basis of astrological associations with terrestrial affairs, have no plausible explanation for its claims, and have not contributed anything of cognitive value to any field of the social sciences.
Even so, astrology is believed by millions of people and it has survived for thousands of years. The ancient Chaldeans and Assyrians engaged in astrological divination some 3, years ago. In India, astrology has been practiced for at least two millennia. Known as Jyotisa , it and several variations such as Nadi astrology are still widely practiced in India where reincarnation is a prominent belief.
The light from the heavens supposedly affects each incarnation and these systems of astrology claim to be able to discern useful information for guiding a person through his or her current life. By BCE the Babylonians had developed the sign zodiac, but it was the Greeks--from the time of Alexander the Great to their conquest by the Romans--who provided most of the fundamental elements of modern Western astrology.
The spread of astrological practice was checked by the rise of Christianity, which emphasized divine intervention and free will.
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During the Renaissance, astrology regained popularity, in part due to rekindled interest in science and astronomy. Christian theologians, however, warred against astrology, and in Pope Sixtus V condemned it. Its popularity and longevity are, of course, irrelevant to the truth of astrology in any of its forms. Astrology was also adopted in ancient Persia and throughout the Arab world where it was taken up by Muslims whose work found its way to Europe during the Renaissance. The ancient Chinese adopted an elaborate and intricate system of astrology that is intimately connected with various metaphysical notions such as yin and yang and wu xing.
Many Westerners are familiar with the cycle of the twelve-year cycle of animal signs in Chinese astrology, e. The most popular form of traditional Western astrology is sun sign astrology, the kind found in the horoscopes of many daily newspapers. A horoscope is an astrological forecast. The zodiac is divided into twelve zones of the sky, each named after the constellation that originally fell within its zone Taurus, Leo, etc.
The apparent paths of the Sun, the Moon, and the major planets all fall within the zodiac. Because of the precession of the equinoxes, the equinox and solstice points have each moved westward about 30 degrees in the last 2, years. Thus, the zodiacal constellations named in ancient times no longer correspond to the segments of the zodiac represented by their signs.
In short, had you been born at the same time on the same day of the year 2, years ago, you would have been born under a different sign. In fact, there should be 13 signs, not Precession of the equinox is caused by the fact that the axis of the Earth's rotation which causes day and night and the axis of the Earth's revolution around the Sun which marks the passage of each year are not parallel. This tilt also causes our seasons, a fact that Ptolemy did understand but that many people do not understand even today.
He deduced this from comparisons of data taken by the ancient Sumerians 2, years before his time.
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He did not understand what was pushing the precession, but he did understand the motion. We now realize that the Sun is rotating with a period of around 30 days and that this causes the Sun to bulge at the equator, which causes a torque to be exerted on the top like motion of the Earth's day and night cycle. There is also a small The modern signs as listed here are further complicated when their boundaries are those of the current constellations.
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A neater way of dividing the signs would be to divide the ecliptic into degree slices, as Ptolemy did, but to keep the slices centered on the star patterns. This would make the time interval for the signs more nearly 30 days each and eliminate the [13th] sign of Ophiuchus [off ee oo' kus], but your modern sign would still differ by one sign from the tradition designations. Traditional Western astrology may be divided into tropical and sidereal. Astrologers in non-Western traditions use different systems.
The tropical, or solar, year is measured relative to the Sun and is the time between successive vernal equinoxes days, 5 hr, 48 min, 46 sec of mean solar time. The sidereal year is the time required for the Earth to complete an orbit of the Sun relative to the stars days, 6 hr, 9 min, 9. The sidereal year is longer than the tropical year because of the precession of the equinoxes, i.
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Sidereal astrology uses the actual constellation in which the Sun is located at the moment of birth as its basis; tropical astrology uses a degree sector of the zodiac as its basis. Sidereal astrology is used by a minority of astrologers and bases its readings on the constellations near the Sun at the time of birth. Tropical astrology is the most popular form and it assigns its readings based on the time of the year, while generally ignoring the positions of the Sun and constellations relative to each other. It is based on the work of Ptolemy.
Ptolemy had available the resources of the vast library at Alexandria The astrological text was known as the Tetrabiblos also known as the Quadrapartitium, or Four Books , which summarized all the astrological work produced in the past by Mesopotamians and Greeks According to some astrologers, the data support the hypothesis that there is a causal connection between heavenly bodies and human events.
Appeals are made to significant correlations between astrological signs and such things as athleticism. However, a statistically significant correlation between x and y is not a sufficient condition for reasonable belief in a causal connection, much less for the belief that x causes y. Correlation does not prove causality; nevertheless, correlations are extremely attractive to defenders of astrology. Chance predicts this should be But what is the analog to the tides in a person?
We are reminded that humans begin life in an amniotic sea and the human body is 70 percent water. It may be obvious to some, but the evidence for these lunar effects is lacking. Astrologers emphasize the importance of the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, etc. There is no single moment that a person is born. The fact that some official somewhere writes down a time of birth is irrelevant. Do they pick the moment the water breaks? The moment the first dilation occurs? When the first hair or toenail peeks through? When the last toenail or hair passes the last millimeter of the vagina?
When the umbilical cord is cut? When the first breath is taken? Or does birth occur at the moment a physician or nurse looks at a clock to note the time of birth? Why is the moment of birth chosen as the significant moment rather than the moment of conception? Other than the Sun and the Moon and an occasional passing comet or asteroid, most planetary objects are so distant from us that any influences they might have on anything on our planet are likely to be wiped out by the influences of other things here on Earth.
No one would claim that in order to grasp the effect of the Moon on the tides or potatoes one must understand initial conditions of the Singularity before the Big Bang, or the positions of the stars and planets at the time the potato was harvested. Initial conditions are less important than present conditions to understanding current effects on rivers and vegetables. Finally, astrology is probably the most widely practiced superstition and most popular Tooth Fairy science in the world today. Nevertheless, there are many who defend astrology by pointing out how accurate professional horoscopes are.
Basically, to say astrology works means that there are a lot of satisfied customers. There are a lot of satisfied customers because thanks to subjective validation , it is easy to shoehorn any event to fit a chart. To say astrology "works" does not mean that astrology is accurate in predicting human behavior or events to a degree significantly greater than mere chance. There are many satisfied customers who believe that their horoscope accurately describes them and that their astrologer has given them good advice. Such evidence does not prove astrology so much as it demonstrates the Forer effect and confirmation bias.
Good astrologers give good advice, but that does not validate astrology. There have been several studies that have shown that people will use selective thinking to make any chart they are given fit their preconceived notions about themselves and their charts. Many of the claims made about signs and personalities are vague and would fit many people under many different signs.
Yet, astrology continues to maintain its popularity, despite the fact that there is scarcely a shred of scientific evidence in its favor.
Even the former First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan, and her husband, Ronald, consulted an astrologer while he was the leader of the free world , demonstrating once again that astrologers have more influence than the stars do. See also cosmobiology , magical thinking , Mars effect , rumpology , and How F.
Don't be surprised if we next hear from the astrologers demanding their "rightful" place in our universities. Ivan Kelly, foremost critic of astrology, sent me a copy of a troublesome article by astrologer Valerie Vaughan. Vaughan claims that astrologers are persecuted by establishment science. That is why astrologers can't get "access to research funding. At most, it might be considered a social science. Having firmly established that astrology is a social science, she then notes that "other social sciences, such as history, are not regularly attacked for their failure to apply scientific methodology in a laboratory setting.
Apparently, Ms. Vaughan does not understand that scientific methodologies can be and are regularly applied outside a lab in the social sciences. Some of these methodologies are based on logical principles such as Mill's Methods , which most astrologers do not seem to believe apply to their discipline. Some of these methodologies involve the use of statistical analysis of data.
A month later, at a Pune astrological seminar, we explained that tests, indeed many tests, are necessary if astrology is to establish itself as a science. In India, leading astrologers have their own astrological organizations, and so we wrote to those on our list about a dozen inviting them to judge all horoscopes. Two responded with expressions of interest, of which one sent in its judgment.
The other remained silent. Among other things he gave us a rule for predicting sex and another rule for predicting intelligence, both of which he claimed were correct in 60 percent of cases. But when applied to our set of horoscopes, the predictions were respectively 47 and 50 percent correct, which offers no advantage over pure guessing or tossing a coin.
Of the twenty-seven astrologers who participated, not all provided personal details, but fifteen were hobbyists, eight were professionals, nine had up to ten years of experience, and seventeen had more than ten years of experience. So they clearly formed a competent group. Their average experience was fourteen years. In fact the highest score was of twenty-four hits by a single astrologer followed by twenty-two hits by two astrologers. The remaining twenty-four astrologers all scored twenty hits or less, including one professional astrologer who found thirty-seven intelligent and three undecided so none were mentally handicapped!
The average for all twenty-seven astrologers was So much for the benefits of their average fourteen years of experience! Certainly no scientific theory would survive such a poor success rate! The institution whose team of astrologers had judged all horoscopes got hits, of which fifty-one were bright and fifty-one were mentally handicapped, so their judgments were, again, no better than tossing a coin.
Tragically, our statistician, Sudhakar Kunte, died in an accident in , and the security he imposed on data storage has so far made it difficult for us to perform further tests, such as whether the astrologers agreed on their judgments, whether they could pick high IQ better than low, and whether the three astrological methods used Nirayan, Sayan, Krishnamurty differed in success rate. We hope that the access to this data will eventually be possible. In Clark twenty astrologers averaged 72 percent hits for ten cases of high IQ paired with cerebral palsy, but this famous result could not be replicated by Joseph , where twenty-three astrologers averaged only 53 percent hits for ten cases of high IQ when paired with the severely mentally handicapped.
No, NASA hasn't changed the zodiac signs or added a new one
It is also consistent with the few tests of Western astrologers who practice Vedic astrology, for example Dudley Our experiment with twenty-seven Indian astrologers judging forty horoscopes each, and a team of astrologers judging horoscopes, showed that none were able to tell bright children from mentally handicapped children better than chance. Our results contradict the claims of Indian astrologers and are consistent with the many tests of Western astrologers.
In summary, our results are firmly against Indian astrology being considered as a science. The Department of Statistics, Pune University, and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, provided infrastructural support while this experiment was being conducted. A brief account appeared in Current Science 96 5 , —, My special thanks to Geoffrey Dean of Perth, Western Australia, for providing information on tests of Western astrology as well as giving me a general background of astrology in the West versus the East.
Babylonian omen ideas arrived in India around BC during the Persian occupation, followed, around AD, by Greek astrological ideas based on planets. To these were added new ideas to suit Indian culture. The end result was largely the Indian astrology still in use today, which exists in numerous schools disagreeing over details most schools of astrology, Indian or Western, disagree over details. The main differences from Western astrology are a preoccupation with reincarnation and karma, use of the sidereal zodiac instead of the tropical zodiac they now differ by nearly one sign due to precession , exclusion of the non-classical planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in favor of the two lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu, use of twenty-seven lunar mansions or nakshatras, and progressively smaller and smaller subdivisions of the signs Stein and Rao Braha , xiii warns that the complexity can be dealt with only by intuition and experience, so Indian astrology cannot be properly learnt from books.
But tests of Western astrologers have found that neither self-rated use of intuition nor experience raise their success rate above chance Dean and Kelly So why should Indian astrologers be any different? At one time Rao ran a computer horoscope service but without predictions. According to ancient Hindu texts, each believer has 8,, rebirths from which they are released only by attaining enlightenment. At say, fifty years per birth, and no change over time, the allocated rebirths span more than million years, roughly the age of the earliest hominids. But some come close. For example Rakesh Anand used astrology to make several important decisions in his life, but the results were disastrous.
So he prepared horoscopes for twenty-four celebrities and nine personal friends, changed their names, and was able to get astrologers from everywhere in far northern India to predict their life and events. But none succeeded.
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For example, they predicted no political career from the horoscope of George Bush and no big money from the horoscope of Bill Gates. For details, visit www. The above chapter accused me of venturing into areas I had not investigated and was therefore ignorant of. For example, I had made the supposedly inexcusable mistake of declaring that astrology was not a science. I hope the present investigation can set the record straight. Braha, J.
Miami: Hermetician Press. Dean, G. The case for and against astrology. Farha ed. Is astrology relevant to consciousness and psi? Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 6—7 : — Mather, and I. Stein, editor, Encyclopedia of the Paranormal , Prometheus Books. Dudley, J. An attempt to predict accidental death with Vedic astrology. Correlation 14 2 : 7— Twenty road deaths vs controls gave 11 hits vs 10 expected by chance. Joseph, R. A Vernon Clark-model experiment distinguishing exceptionally gifted high performance from profoundly retarded low performance children.
Journal of Geocosmic Research 1 3 : 55— Premanand, B. Bhatty, and M. Risbud eds. Astrology: Science or Ego-Trip? Published by Indian Skeptics. The best single survey of both Indian and Western astrology, impressively thorough, many anecdotes, but very few tests, none of them Indian. Rao, S. Astrology Believe It or Not? Bangalore: Navakarnataka Publications. Siddhanta, K. Some questions concerning the UGC course in astrology. Breakthrough 9 2 : 1— Stein, G. Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Amherst: Prometheus Books.