“Astro-illogical” (Astrology)

Astrology is the belief that spinning spheres of rock, liquid, and gas determine the fates of creatures millions of miles away, dictating how much they make, who they love, how annoying they are, and whether they have that second slice of cornbread.

Astrologers offer no explanation for how this works. Curiously, the one celestial body that might impact a person’s life, Earth, is a nonfactor in astrology.

One form of astrology holds that natural disasters are predicted by celestial events. With countless astronomical occurrences to choose from, it’s easy to concoct a relationship between these events and natural disasters. One could also find a correlation between natural disasters and spicy mustard sales or use of the word plenipotentiary, but this would not prove causality.

The overarching idea of astrology is that celestial bodies impact us. But if this were so, why would birth date be the only human factor? The moon impacts the ocean, but ascertaining when tomorrow’s low tide will be does not require knowing where the satellite was when the Atlantic was formed.

The force of celestial bodies might impact future space travelers, but not us present, atmosphere-bound types. Other than the sun and moon, celestial bodies are too distant from Earth to impact us. The key forces in nature are nuclear, electromagnetic, and gravitational. The nuclear forces have almost no impact outside the nucleus. The electromagnetic force is only a little stronger. With regard to gravity, its pull decreases substantially as distance increases. Something that moves from one location to twice as far away exerts a quarter of the gravitational pull. That same object three times farther away exerts a ninth of the gravitational pull. By the time you get to the 40 million miles from Mars to Earth, the Red Planet has lost all influence on your ability to become more focused.

A few supposed validations of astrology with regard to athletic ability have been claimed. For instance, since 1950, someone born in August has had a 60 percent better chance of playing Major League Baseball than someone born in July. This is not based on whether Saturn was descending, but is because July 31 is the cutoff date used by youth baseball leagues. The older players were stronger, faster, and usually better. Buoyed by initial success, they trained harder and the momentum continued all the way to the Big Leagues. In countries with different cut off dates for athletic teams, the trend shifts accordingly.

Astrology has never been validated by any study. The most serious scientific undertaking was overseen by physicist Scientist Shawn Carlson, who conducted a double blind controlled experiment for Nature magazine. Twenty-eight astrologers were given the task of matching birth charts to psychological profiles, and none performed better than chance.

Not that this meant doom for the field. Some people like thinking astrology provides order to their lives, and most predictions and personality identifiers are general enough to allow for easy shoehorning. Another tactic is using contradictory ideas, such as “You are sometimes shy, but will open up around the right person or situation.” Astrology relies on the Forer Effect, subjective validation, confirmation bias, and selective and elastic thinking.

Vague ideas also help. I found one prediction that read, “With Neptune in Pisces until 2024, we will see political issues coming up involving water.” So rest assured, the last 20,000 years of geopolitics will continue.

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