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Astrology: Pseudoscience and Delusion
Posted: 05 August 2008 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I have recently posted the text below in my blog (I am the author). I would like to know the opinon of the members of this forum about it.

There are various theories (physical, spiritual, magical, psychic and informational) that try to explain how astrology is supposed to work. All these theories have something in common: they offer explanations that are incompatible with existing knowledge. The aim of this article is to expose some of the main flaws of astrology. The arguments presented here are not exhaustive, i.e., they do not comprehend all that is wrong with astrology. If you are interested in having a deep understanding of the scientific evidences against astrology, I suggest that you visit the following web site: http://www.astrology-and-science.com. It offers an impressive quantity of detailed information on this subject.
  The main problem of the physical theories resides on the fact that long range forces, like gravity, get weaker with distance. Astrology does not take this fact into consideration. Concerning gravity, for example, astrology not only disregards the influence of the distances and masses of the celestial bodies, but also ignores the fact that it is an extremely weak force. The influence that a planet like Mars exerts upon us, for instance, is much smaller than the influence from the objects and people around us. Gravity force is so weak that, when you pick up an object from the floor, you are opposing the force that the entire planet Earth exerts upon that object. Besides, if the distances and the masses of the celestial bodies and matter are not relevant, shouldn’t astrology take into consideration all the innumerable billions of celestial bodies? What about black matter and black holes? Shouldn’t they be taken into account as well?
  Astrology techniques are very inaccurate and its criteria are arbitrary. Astrologers disregard the existence of a 13th constellation of the zodiac (Ophiuchus). Furthermore, they do not take into account the fact that the constellations do not fit well into the 12 equal segments of the sky that astrology assigns them to. They overlap and are irregularly distributed in space. Thus, the Sun path across them is not equally divided along the 12 months of the year (a person’s sign is determined by the position of the Sun in relation to the constellations of the zodiac on the date of birth), and it can cross more than one constellation at the same time. Astrologers also ignore the precession movement of the planet. Due to the precession movement, Earth constantly changes the inclination of its axis of rotation. The complete cycle takes thousands of years. The result is that the sky that we see today is not the same that people saw centuries ago.
  Astrology charts are based on the moment of birth (birth charts). This choice is arbitrary. Isn’t the moment of conception much more significant? Besides, if the time of birth is so important, how do astrologers explain the fact that twins (as well as any other people who are born in the same place, at the same time) are able to lead lives completely different from each other? They simply cannot explain it.
  Many people who believe in astrology affirm that it effectively describes their personality and successfully predicts events of their lives. How can science explain that? First of all, horoscopes are so vague that their statements can be applied to almost anyone. In addition to that, mere chance and psychological biases are the most reasonable explanations for most of these apparent successful descriptions and predictions. As a matter of fact, in innumerable well conducted scientific experiments, astrologers failed to show that the accuracy of their predictions was any greater than what is expected by chance.

Alexandre
http://sciencecultureknowledge.blogspot.com/

[ Edited: 17 April 2009 03:47 PM by acandrad ]
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Posted: 05 August 2008 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Looks good. I also recommend Andrew Fraknoi’s Astrology Defense Kit.

I especially like #3: “If the mother’s womb can keep out astrological influences until birth, can we do the same with a cubicle of steak?”

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Posted: 05 August 2008 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree generally, have only two remarks.

acandrad - 05 August 2008 08:26 AM

Astrologers also ignore the precession movement of the planet. Due to the precession movement, Earth constantly changes the inclination of its axis of rotation. The complete cycle takes thousands of years. The result is that the sky that we see today is not the same that people saw centuries ago.

Because of precession the sky does not really change, only the time, and the place where we can see the same sky. E.g. at this moment when the sun is standing in one constellation, according to astrology, it is another sign. This is because (afaik babylonian) astrology is about 2400 years old, and during this time the signs have shifted more or less exactly one sign.
Of course the sky changes because of the movement of the stars, but that is another story.

acandrad - 05 August 2008 08:26 AM

As a matter of fact, in innumerable well conducted scientific experiments, astrologers failed to show that the accuracy of their predictions was any greater than what is expected by chance.

For me this is the most important argument, just to avoid that we unbelievers are called ‘closed minded’. My idea is the following: we should find out what a professional astrologer claims, and then find out if he can really do what he claims. If he does not better than chance, we are ready. If he does, then we must investigate further (which should first be to see if we have made some methodological error). If beyond any doubt, his claims are correct, then we have found something really interesting, and further investigation is necessary. Afaik these kind of investigations are already done, and nothing came out.

The way out for a believer when the astrologer fails, is then still saying ‘Oh but X ist not a real professional astrologer, you should try with Y’, and then endlessly. But of course, at some moment one must stop. And possible we are still called closed minded…

GdB

Edit: Doug’s link provides a few of these investigations…

[ Edited: 05 August 2008 09:03 AM by GdB ]
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“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

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Posted: 05 August 2008 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I recall a test where a number of people were invited into a room where each was offered a horoscope drawn up for them. Each was asked how accurate it was, and most agreed it was pretty accurate. They were then informed, and it was proven, that everyone had the same horoscope.

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Posted: 05 August 2008 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 05 August 2008 11:25 AM

I recall a test where a number of people were invited into a room where each was offered a horoscope drawn up for them. Each was asked how accurate it was, and most agreed it was pretty accurate. They were then informed, and it was proven, that everyone had the same horoscope.

IIRC Randi did this test on camera for the NOVA show about him several years back.

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Posted: 05 August 2008 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes, here is a fun experiment. Cut the predictions out of the newspaper. Cut the star signs off the top of each prediction, and mix them up. Now pass them out to friends. They will be amazed at the accuracy.

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Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

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Posted: 05 August 2008 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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dougsmith - 05 August 2008 11:33 AM
A Voice of Sanity - 05 August 2008 11:25 AM

I recall a test where a number of people were invited into a room where each was offered a horoscope drawn up for them. Each was asked how accurate it was, and most agreed it was pretty accurate. They were then informed, and it was proven, that everyone had the same horoscope.

IIRC Randi did this test on camera for the NOVA show about him several years back.

The test was filmed and can be found in You Tube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dp2Zqk8vHw&feature=PlayList&p=ACB886334470EB0F&index=9

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Posted: 06 August 2008 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Attempts to explain how Astrology “works” are a clear cut case of putting the cart ahead of the horse. Before you try to figure out the mechanism by which a system works, you must first determine that the system itself actually works. Astrology has never been shown to accurately predict anything. Developing theories about how astrology works is a desperate attempt by believers hoping we will forget that in fact it doesn’t work.

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For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

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Posted: 06 August 2008 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Jules - 05 August 2008 11:47 AM

Yes, here is a fun experiment. Cut the predictions out of the newspaper. Cut the star signs off the top of each prediction, and mix them up. Now pass them out to friends. They will be amazed at the accuracy.

Be aware that that sort of horoscope is rejected by those who practice astrology.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Oh, OK. Do they feel their predictions are better than the ones in the paper because they’re customized to the individual? I’ve heard some of them incorporate things like the time you were born, etc. into their predictions. But that is about the extent of my knowledge on the subject. I never really payed attention to the “industry” because I felt it was silly and brushed it off.

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Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

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Posted: 06 August 2008 09:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Jules - 06 August 2008 08:25 PM

Oh, OK. Do they feel their predictions are better than the ones in the paper because they’re customized to the individual? I’ve heard some of them incorporate things like the time you were born, etc. into their predictions. But that is about the extent of my knowledge on the subject. I never really payed attention to the “industry” because I felt it was silly and brushed it off.

They regard such things as too inaccurate. They want to know the day of birth, preferably the minute, and they cast a horoscope for the day of the reading.

Be aware also that many newspaper horoscopes are made up by people with no training in astrology - they just put random sayings together.

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Posted: 07 August 2008 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 06 August 2008 09:03 PM

Be aware also that many newspaper horoscopes are made up by people with no training in astrology - they just put random sayings together.

I’m sure that’s true, but one does have to stop and reflect a few minutes to consider what “training in astrology” amounts to. Is there such a subject as “astrology” in which one can be consistently trained? Or are there simply any number of mutually inconsistent, mathematically complex mumbo-jumbo producing algorithms going under the banner of “astrology”?

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Posted: 07 August 2008 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 06 August 2008 09:03 PM

Be aware also that many newspaper horoscopes are made up by people with no training in astrology - they just put random sayings together.

dougsmith - 07 August 2008 04:08 AM

I’m sure that’s true, but one does have to stop and reflect a few minutes to consider what “training in astrology” amounts to. Is there such a subject as “astrology” in which one can be consistently trained? Or are there simply any number of mutually inconsistent, mathematically complex mumbo-jumbo producing algorithms going under the banner of “astrology”?

No, the basics are clearly delineated and I have done it myself—the hard way, before computers. There are many different schools of thought using different methods for various parts of the process. However the fundamental basis on which the whole structure stands remains without proof - another example of wishful thinking, like all religions.

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Posted: 07 August 2008 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The problem with hard core astrology believers not believing cut-outs is that they look amateurish.  If the person finds an official Astrology site, lifts their sheets of predictions based on moon and planets rising, precise times of birth, etc. then carefully moves all of the predictions around at random, and prints out the result, the readers will accept the authority and believe all of the silliness.

Occam

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Posted: 07 August 2008 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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So it has been shown. Cold reading works.

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Posted: 08 August 2008 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I agree astrology is not a science.

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If facts do not fit the theory change the facts!
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