An Introduction To Astrology

“There are 2 ways to view the stars, as they really are and as we might wish them to be” – Carl Sagan.

The sun, the moon, and the stars have always been with us, it’s no surprise that humans found patterns in these celestial objects, and subsequently as with many other things, they associated these patterns with events in their lives. It started in prehistoric times with the most basic astronomical observation, the day/night cycle, some civilizations saw a relationship between the position of specific astronomical entities and the seasons, they developed a mythology around it in an attempt to explain and control phenomena that they couldn’t understand.

This interest for the skies led to the development of astronomy as a tool to measure and predict the behavior of the astronomical objects, and astrology as a way to interpret how that behavior could affect life on Earth; but at the time, they were indistinguishable from each other, because of this, some of the most important and basic contributions to astronomy were made by scientists that were also astrologers, such as Johannes Kepler, who explained the laws of planetary motion. With the passing of the years, more skeptics of astrology appeared, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that astronomy and astrology were viewed as two different things.

Modern Astrology

Due to their similar histories and names, some people don’t know the difference between astronomy and astrology, so here are two of their main distinctions:

  • Astronomy is a science that studies outer space to understand the elements of the universe and how it works. Astrology is the “study” of how some planets and constellations influence human lives and the Earth.
  • Astronomy uses the scientific method to study and explain phenomena, using empirical evidence to prove hypotheses and theories. Astrology is based on folklore and superstition, with only anecdotal evidence to support it.

Astrology relies on the fact that its predictions are usually just general enough to look specific when in fact they can be true for almost anyone, the more unique predictions can be obtained by getting that information from the individual or some other source, or as a combination of a large amount of predictions and confirmation bias (to remember the hits and forget the misses), with enough of that, just by chance a good portion of the predictions should be true.

One of the modern and most popular astrological beliefs is that the position of celestial objects at the moment of birth affects the destiny and personality of the individual, even today, astrology can often be found in newspapers, books and other media.

These are some of the problems with astrology:

  • Most astrological predictions don’t agree with each other even when talking about the same thing.
  • Most of astrology is based on an outdated model, this is due to the movement of the Earth causing gradual changes in what we see in the night sky and the discoveries of science.
  • There is no evidence of any mechanism for planets and the Sun to affect the Earth in the way that astrology proposes, nor there is empirical evidence of the effects that astrology is supposed to have in life.
  • There is no explanation as to what makes the planets special, and why not others of the hundreds of objects in the solar system have the same effect.

Some have tried to explain these problems, but the answers are usually speculative and untestable.

References and Suggested Reading:

Plait, Philip. “Astrology” Bad Astronomy. Accessed 29 July 2011. http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/astrology.html

“Astrology” The Skeptic’s dictionary. Jul 03, 2011. Accessed 29 July 2011 http://skepdic.com/astrology.html

“Astrology” James Randi Educational Foundation. Accessed 29 July 2011 http://www.randi.org/encyclopedia/astrology.html

Carl Sagan on Astrology: