Astrology: Does it work?
No, it doesn't. Despite its enormous popularity, predicting the future or reading someone's personality based on the position of the sun, stars, planets, and other heavenly bodies has no basis in fact. Here are some reasons to think that astrology should be rejected.
- There is no theory to suggest that astrology might work.
One of the first things that researchers into astrology find is that there is no agreement about how to do astrology and no theoretical model to explain why it might work. Why should anyone think that heavenly bodies influence our lives by their positions? It can't be based on the gravitational pull of the planets or stars, since a large building exerts more gravitational pull on you than a distant star. Similarly, it is not magnetism, light waves, or any other known force that could explain astrology even if it produced results. Actually, astrology is just a superstition based on the ancient belief that the planets were gods and that their divine characters influenced our lives. Notice that the planets even now bear the names of Roman gods.
- Astrology has been scientifically tested and it always failed.
If astrology could make predictions or pass tests, then there would be a phenomenon that would cry out for explanation and it should be tested. But the fact is that when astrology has been tested scientifically, it has failed. It can't predict anything, not even personality traits. Here are a few examples.
- In 1971 the Survey Research Center of the University of California, Berkeley gathered data on 1000 adults and looked for any correlation between natal signs and personality traits such as leadership skills, political opinions, intelligence, musical ability, artistic ability, confidence, creativity, occupation, religion, ability to make friends, emotional expression, organizational skills-even belief in astrology! They looked for a correlation between personality and astrological sign and found none.
- Another such study reported in the December 1985 issue of Nature, described a double-blind experiment by physicist Shawn Carlson of the physics department of UC Berkeley. Twenty-eight professional astrologers were given three personality profiles of each subject, and one of the three was the correct one, based on 18 personality traits by the California Personality Inventory Test. Each subject provided his or her birth time accurate to within 15 minutes, and there were 116 subjects studied. The astrologers guessed correctly 1/3 of the time, and that was exactly the rate expected by chance. The astrologers were even allowed to pick a second choice for the personality profile, and their accuracy was still no better than chance.
- Astrologers have never been shown to have the ability to predict world events, warn others of natural disasters, or perform any other such feats that one would expect of an allegedly predictive "science." So why does astrology seem so convincing to many people?
- Astrological readings are vague, and people read into them what they expect to hear. In the Carlson study mentioned above, subjects were asked to pick out their own horoscopes that the astrologers had prepared, and they did no better than chance. But they also reported that they were satisfied with the horoscope they chose. Any horoscope will do.
- In a 1979 French study, Michel Gauquelin put an ad for a free horoscope reading in a Paris newspaper. Recipients were asked to rate how accurate they and their friends found the reading. Ninety-four percent said it was accurate, as did 90% of their friends and family. But all of them had received the same horoscope, which was that of Dr. Petiot, a French mass murderer. People see what they want to see. (Of course, the astrologer who did Petiot's horoscope didn't see his grisly future either.)
- On a TV show on June 7, 1989, magician James Randi offered $100,000 to an astrologer who said he could prove the truth of his claims. The astrologer cast the horoscopes of twelve subjects. Then he interviewed them without knowing their identities and then tried to match each one with the horoscopes. He said he could do it, but he got all twelve wrong.
- In 1994, Melbourne's Sunday Age asked six professional astrologers and psychics to predict the winner of the Melbourne cup. None came close.
Bottomline: There is no reason why astrology should work and when you put it to the test, it doesn't work. As with other supernatural claims, the Fayetteville Freethinkers will pay $1,000 to anyone who can demonstrate, under proper test conditions, that astrology works.
© 2002 Fayetteville Freethinkers