Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #3: Astrology

For last weeks Wednesday Woo, Click here.

“The criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.” — Karl Popper

If you’ve ever been on social media, there’s no doubt you’ve come across astrological personality memes, articles regarding planetary influence or some form of vague horoscope. Most of the claims are rather general and often harmless, but others have a tendency to show an ugly bias that is based on one’s personal experience with certain signs as opposed to actual statistics. Every assumption can be made about certain sun signs or planetary aspects, including a person’s taste in entertainment, whether or not they are prone to accidents, how much they talk, or even crazy things that arouse suspicion, such as: “Geminis are more likely to lie and to cheat on you.” Holy shit! For real? I guess I’d better steer clear of those lyin’, cheatin’ Geminis, right? But wait, there’s a “study” that came out recently that ranked Sagittarius as the most likely to cheat on their partners. Then again, here’s another “study” that says Sagittarius is least likely to cheat. What is going on here? Why aren’t these astrologers coming to the same conclusions?

“Holy shit! For real? I guess I’d better steer clear of those lyin’, cheatin’ Geminis, right?”

While astrology is really popular, and can be quite amusing as entertainment, one cannot help but wonder about their true value. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s a valid way of thinking. Is astrology truly a reliable form of science, or is it a pseudoscience? This is often one of many questions poised to astrologers, and it seems to really be a thorn in the side of their profession. Astrologers have big claims about the predictive nature of their methods, as well as what a natal chart can reveal about an individual’s personal nature. These claims, of course, are unfalsifiable, which plants a big, red flag in the astrologer’s corner. Real science provides conditions where a claim can be proven false (falsifiable), whereas astrologers leave absolutely no room for this, and instead, only seek confirmation of their claims while ignoring any evidence to the contrary. There’s no peer review, nor any evidence that planets and stars impact personal aspects of our lives. This is not how science works, but it is exactly what one would expect from pseudoscience. As Carl Sagan asserted, “Extraordinary claims requite extraordinary evidence.” So, where is the evidence?

There is no scientific basis for the notion of far away planets or constellations have any intimate influence on human lives in the way astrology claims. Many astrologers will use gravity to argue their position, since the tides are affected by the moon’s pull, and our bodies mostly consist of water. They don’t take into account that the moon’s gravitational influence only includes open bodies of water, not the enclosed water within our bodies. Astrologers will also assert that technology, communication, travel and contractual obligations are not a good idea during mercury retrograde, but they do not seem to offer a real reason other than folklore. Is this a gravitational phenomenon as well? That to me is doubtful, since Mercury retrograde is mostly an optical illusion. Despite there being no evidence to believe that retrogrades and moon phases have anything to to with our lives, these myths are still believed so fervently that every few months you will see all kind of crazy memes and articles shared about retrogrades and super moons. A new shift occurs just as soon as people get over the last, and most believers attribute them to planetary activity. One thing I always found strange personally, was that astrology does not take into account the gravitational pull of airplanes passing over those who live next to airports, or the massive ships in which those on the coasts are exposed. If gravity is truly the most influential aspect of a person’s natal chart, why aren’t the flight patterns included, or even traffic of nearby cars? These would actually have more of a gravitational impact on a person than any of the planets outside of our own.

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When the validity of astrology has actually been tested, their predictions and assessments work at a rate no better than chance. Like I said before, the astrologers can’t seem to even agree on interpretation of charts they studied. If it were a truly accurate and predictive source of understanding reality, surely there would be no personal bias involved. But it turns out, it’s mostly based on intuitive feelings (*cough* cold reading *cough*) the chart reader has when gazing upon the chart positions and its many aspects. Despite this lack of evidence, astrologers all over the world still maintain they are providing a useful service, oftentimes charging lots of money in order to provide answers to people who are desperate to find romance, riches, or good fortune. The situation is really bad in India, where not only are they charged for astrological services, but also duped into buying gemstones to alter their fortune; sometimes even urged to change their names and location.

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One again, confirmation bias rules supreme in the world of woo, and since astrology is so deeply connected to various lore, I would be surprised if belief in it vanished into the dark ages from which they came. The desire to assign anthropomorphic features to stellar objects seems to bring a mystifying allure that is difficult to overcome. I cannot say that it has been completely useless in our development to take such interests in the stars and planets, for it has paved the way for astronomy and physics. What I can express is the desire to know the truth about our reality, and in order to do this, I must find credible data and evidence to justify things I believe. I used to believe in astrology, so much so I dedicated large portions of my day to study natal charts and their progression. After a long standing faith in this idea, I finally decided to take apply critical analysis, and it did not hold up to scrutiny once I began thinking with more skepticism, and definitely fell apart once I understood the scientific concept of falsifiability. The conclusion I came to: astrology is a historically outdated and empirically wrong form of pseudoscience that holds no justification for belief.

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15 thoughts on “Wednesday Woo #3: Astrology

  1. Good demolition, great visual icons- what about astrology had it so creditable to you back then? How could the position of the planets when we are born have anything whatsoever to do with our destinies later on? Like all “woo,” which you have a great eye for, it just is so preposterous when held up to a little light to it.

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  2. Reblogged this on Lost Dudeist Astrology and commented:
    Interesting arguments, and good points. No question about it, Astrology is NOT falsifiable, along with Freudian Psychoanalysis, Marxism, and a number of other domains that are also quite popular. (I tell people, up front, stick with what works for you. If it does not work, then dump it. And, no doubt about it, confirmation bias is in play: https://grandtrines.wordpress.com/sumo/ ) You are saying astrology falls in with all the various pundits on television, both financial and political, whose predictions do no better than chance, such as the pollsters who predicted Hillary would win? If so, I think that is a GREAT point! See, also: https://medium.com/@penguinpress/are-you-smarter-than-a-television-pundit-f885d07e3522 and http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/12/05/everybodys-an-expert Many 🙂 🙂 🙂 (Who cares if it is not “science”? So what?)

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      1. I did and found it to be nothing more than gobbledy gook. I consult the invisible pink unicorn in my closet for all of my life decisions, seems to be right about 50% of the time….just like astrology…. So you don’t care if it’s science and you compare it to political pundits or promises made by politicians. To me that would be a direct and complete admittance that your profession is nothing more than a complete fraud and yet people fall for your scam, much in the same way people do with faith healers, politicians and the like.

        If something is no better than chance then it cannot possibly be in anyway actually divine. It also has no basis for people to base their life around. It uses people and sucks them dry of their money and their ability to cope in a world that isn’t actually guided by the stars.

        Have a nice night!

        If you have a chance please answer my question, do you care if what you tell people is true or not?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Among the other topics that fail falsifiability: Darwin’s Evolution. Are you junking that, too? (My six foot tall rabbit, named Harvey, says hello to your invisible pink unicorn.)

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      3. Evolution is completely falsifiable, a singe rabit bone in the wrong layer of rock would throw out evolution completely.

        Besides it’s not Darwin’s evolution, Mendel and many other contributed much to evolutionary theory after Darwin’s time.

        Will you please answer the question posed to you. Do you care if the things that you tell people are true or not?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Mendel was a devout monk and had no intention of furthering that theory. And science is routinely wrong. Ever read Kuhn’s “Making of Scientific Revolutions”?

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      5. Truth is a verifiable fact, to say you believe it is open is to say you don’t care whether the things you say are actually verifiably true or not.

        Which leads one to wonder whether you knowingly defraud people or simply unwittingly defraud people due to your own delusions? That’s a question only you can answer and since you refuse to answer the first, I have very little interest in talking to you further…

        Liked by 1 person

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