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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Does Astrology Really Work? Do the Stars Affect Your Life?

There are many ways of proving that astrology does not work at all. We will examine some of them in this article.

There is a simple, easy way of proving that, for those of us who believe the Bible is the word of God, we should avoid astrology like a deadly disease (whether it works or not). We will examine that, too.

Of course, astrology has been shot down by proper scientific testing before and since. A good example may be found in the March 1986 issue of Science 86, p. 8. Here is what the article in this respected science magazine says:

"BERKELEY, CAL. - Astrology just flunked one of its toughest tests ever. Shawn Carlson, a graduate student in physics at the University of California, has shown that astrologers cannot divine someone's personality from knowledge of planetary positions.

"In his study, 116 adults returned a standard personality test that assesses traits such as sociability and dominance. Carlson sent personality profiles of three subjects, plus a natal chart for one of them, to each of two dozen astrologers recommended by members of the San Francisco chapter of the National Council for Geocosmic Research, a group specializing in astrology.

"The test was for the astrologers to choose the personality profile that best matched the natal chart, or horoscope. Carlson and the astrologers had agreed that picking the right profile half the time would mean that the astrologers had some ability to accurately describe a person's character.

"But the astrologers were able to match the natal chart with the personality profile in just one out of three cases—no better than chance [the law of averages]."


"'Astrology was given every reasonable chance to succeed,' Carlson wrote in the journal Nature. `It failed.'"

Another revealing article in this respected science magazine may be found on pp. 80, 82 of the June 1984 issue of Science 84.

"Over the last decade or so, scientists have tested the predictions of astrology in a variety of ways, with results that are best summed up in the title of a 1977 book by Anthony Standen, Forget Your Sun Sign. The book is just one shot in a barrage of scientific tests and critiques recently summarized and published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

"To begin with, according to the society's report, the sun's path through the zodiac, the belt of astrological constellations, is not quite what popular horoscopes would have us believe. It turns out that the spinning Earth is like a child's toy top: It wobbles. Being huge, it wobbles in immense, 25,000-year sweeps. This makes the sun's position along the zodiac drift farther and farther from its astrological schedule every year. After more than 2,000 years of astrology, the discrepancy is almost one full constellation.

"In late June, for example, when the sun is supposed to be in the constellation of Cancer according to traditional astrology, it is actually one constellation over, in Gemini. Gemini is really Taurus, Taurus is Aries, and so on. Thus most horoscopes that you read in the newspaper or get from astrologers apply to a completely different sign from the one assigned to your birthday.

"None of this fazes the professional astrologers, however. They maintain that these simple, one dimensional tests of sun signs or planetary influences will always yield random results, because each individual's horoscope in fact depends upon a whole complex range of factors. [1]

"Fair enough. But consider the results of French statistician Michel Gauquelin, a man who has been putting astrology to the test for more than 20 years.

"Gauquelin once put out a newspaper ad offering free personalized horoscopes. To the 150 people who answered, he sent the same information, and asked how well the interpretation fit. Some 94 percent said they recognized themselves.

"It was the horoscope of mass murderer Dr. Marcel Petiot."

"And yet, for all that, people still take a great deal of comfort in their horoscopes. They find an eerie accuracy in the charts, an uncanny insight into their lives. Astrology works, they say, and how can this be unless it is true?

"Indeed it does work - but only because believers want to believe and because we are all very human and complex people, outgoing in one situation and shy in another, selfish at one moment and generous at the next. Given a description of almost anyone, we can usually see something of ourselves.

Astronomy Disproves Astrology

James Randi has been well known for exposing fraud and trickery for many years. Being a professional magician himself, 'The Amazing Randi', he is aware of the many forms of trickery used in convincing others that the impossible is true. In his book, Flim-Flam, he discusses some of his experiences with astrology:

"By far, the oldest of the claptrap philosophies of mankind is astrology. In the United States alone there are more than twenty thousand practicing astrologers casting horoscopes and taking the money of literally millions of credulous believers. But there is probably no other major delusion that is more easily examined and shown to be totally without any logical basis. 


"It is one thing to argue that astrology is not a rational belief, and another to show that it does not work. The former is fairly easy to demonstrate.

"For example, in the unlikely and long-sought event that the sun, moon and all the planets lined up in a straight line to combine their gravitational pulls, the effect on the human body would be nullified if the person merely sat down from a standing position! Lowering the body a distance of twenty-five inches would bring it closer to the gravitational center of the earth and neutralize all effects of the other heavenly bodies that we are told have such influence! [2]"If we consider the scale of the universe, we begin to see just how ridiculous belief in astrology can be. Astronomers measure distances in their business in terms of the speed of light. The basic unit is the light-year, or the distance light travels in one year. Since light travels some 186,000 miles in a second, a light-year's equivalent in miles is rather unwieldy. To say that the star Sirius is 51,000,000,000,000 miles away is a bit awkward; its astronomical distance of 8.7 light-years is much easier.

"Similarly, light-speed units provide some idea of the distance involved within the solar system. Look up at the moon. What do you see? You see the moon as it was about 1.3 seconds ago. In other words, it is 1.3 light-seconds away; that's how long it took the moonlight you see to reach the earth. The sun is about 8.3 light-minutes away from Earth, and Pluto 5.6 light-hours. Some stars that we see in the night sky aren't really `there' at all; we see the light they emitted anywhere from a few years to several thousand years ago. Astrology would have us believe that if, at the moment of birth, the sun is aligned with a set of stars that aren't even `there' as we see them, one's future or character will be different from what it would be if the sun were aligned with another set of not-there stars. Is this not irrational?

"With some 250,000,000,000 stars in our own particular galaxy that surrounds us, and about 100,000,000,000 other galaxies available to influence us, it seems that a possible 25,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000 stars enter into our fortunes. For a bit of flavor, throw in a few hundred asteroids (minor planets) that are part of our solar system but not part of astrology. The possibilities are endless.

"Using wishful thinking and a set of invented zodiacal signs as guides, early theorists came up with astrology - or more correctly, astrologies, for the various races developed not only their own mythical figures but also their own rules. At this point, as in the case of so many other bogus theories, a bit of simple logic applies: If the basic idea is the same, yet more than one system arises, each giving different results in accordance with different, mutually incompatible rules, then either all the systems are false or only one is correct. [3] The former is more likely, since astrology simply does not work, despite the believers' constant acceptance and verification of its efficiency. Ben Franklin said it well: `Quacks are the greatest liars in the world, except their patients.'

"We are told that the most important general astrological influence is the position of the sun in the zodiac (the set of twelve constellations girdling the sky) at the moment of birth. Thus, an examination of this claim alone should teach us something about the degree of rationality and the general quality of astrological theory.

"One of the obvious questions that comes to mind concerning the influence of this `birth sign' on the character and future of each person arises when we consider those born on exactly the same day, at the same hour, and (another important consideration in astrology) in the same geographical location. Would not these persons have very similar horoscopes - indeed, identical horoscopes - and therefore the same future and personality? Not necessarily, say the astrologers. We are told that the exact time of birth (meaning within several minutes) can make a great difference, because the `ascendant sign' (the one rising on the horizon at the moment of birth), as well as the position of the moon in the zodiac band of twelve astrological signs, can be very important. But, we counter, what of twins, who are certainly born at nearly the same time and assuredly in the same location? There is a handy explanation for any discrepancy here, too. It is said that in such cases there is a shift in the heavenly bodies during the short period of time separating the two births.

"But when astrology `experts' seek to explain away any dissimilar characteristics of twins with this `change of ascendant and/or moon position' malarkey, is this not merely fitting the facts to the theory? I maintain that it is. Similarities in character and fortune are ascribed to similarities in horoscope details, and dissimilarities are attributed to even the most minor discrepancies among the charts. It is a procedure that satisfies uncritical observers but not skeptics." - pp. 55-63, Flim-Flam, 1982 (Seventh printing, 1987).

Study by the Association for Scientific Research

Then we have the reports of a German study in 1991 and again in 1992:

"Early in 1991 the Association for Scientific Research into the Parasciences in Germany gathered 152 predictions by 27 astrologers. They then evaluated them at the year's end. Wetterauer Zeitung reported that 103 of the predictions `were completely wrong.' For instance, astrologers predicted an atomic disaster and a cure for AIDS during 1991. The 14 prognoses that came true were simply general statements. Others were too vague to be judged for accuracy, while some even contradicted one another. On the other hand, all astrologers had said nothing about several momentous events of 1991. `If just one of the astrologers had known what he was doing,' commented the manager of the association, `he would, for instance, have seen Gorbachev's resignation in advance or the decline of the Soviet Union.'" - Awake!, 8 June 1992, p. 29.

Early in 1992 the same scientific association conducted the study again, this time for 50 predictions from astrologers all over the world:

"`Whereas in 1991 vague prognoses were able to record at least partial successes,' reports the Suddeutsche Zeitung, `this time the predictions do not contain even one bulls-eye.' Predictions for 1992 included the re-election of George Bush and the destruction of the White House by fire." - Awake!, 8 July 1993.

They did not include the disastrous fire at Buckingham Palace, the much publicized break-up of royal families (Prince Charles and Diana; Prince Andrew and "Fergie"), nor any other notable event of 1992!

Again, in 1996, the German newspaper Die Zeit reported that 44 astrologers in the Netherlands recently submitted voluntarily to a test prepared by the Dutch Society of Skeptics. The astrologers were given two lists. One contained the place and date of birth of seven persons. The second provided abundant personal information about each of the seven individuals. The astrologers were asked to match each person on the first list with his respective description on the second list by using their alleged skills with astrology. The results: Half the astrologers did not even get one correct answer, and no one was able to match more than three correctly. Previous experiments had yielded similar results, but the astrologers claimed that they had been supplied with the wrong information. In this case, however, the terms of the test were set by the astrologers themselves. - see Awake! 8 May, 1996, p. 29.

Those Who "Want to Believe"

So, in spite of absolute proof that astrology cannot and does not work, we find a huge number of people who continue to believe in it. This overpowering compulsion to look for anything that will give a reason to believe in (or continue to believe in) a "magical" system that has been conclusively proven wrong may be illustrated by 2 examples concerning events of such earth-shattering importance that all "competent" astrologers should have easily predicted (and forcefully proclaimed) them if there is even the slightest degree of astrological influence by the stars!

The first example concerns the beginning of the most destructive, tragic war to ever involve this planet—World War II.

"A group of leading English astrologers in 1939 [the very year WWII broke out in Europe] ... assured their followers that, according to astrological signs, no war was imminent."

In spite of this slight oversight (England was devastated by the worst destruction ever poured out upon her) these leading astrologers were quickly forgiven and astrology prospered more than ever in England.

The second example of people so desperately wanting to believe in this easy, magical method for decision-making that they will overlook and forgive anything was reported in the 8 August 1981 AWAKE! magazine, p. 16:

"The infatuation many have with horoscopy [astrology], as with gambling, can blind followers to its failures. In this regard, Eric Russell, in Astrology and Prediction, discusses an `appalling flood' that had been predicted by most European astrologers and contemporaries of Nostradamus. They agreed that all the planets would be in conjunction in the watery sign of Pisces - an infallible indication that the known world must be destroyed by water.... Some few fundamentalists [Christians - not astrologers] argued that this could not possibly be true for had not God set the rainbow in the sky as promise that never again would the floodgates of heaven be opened?... Ship builders made immense profits as those who could afford it chartered every available craft in the ports.' The world waited, but nothing happened.

"Russell continues: `The quicker-thinking astrologers congratulated Christianity for the strength of its prayers in turning aside the calamity while others perhaps looked for another profession. [There were simply no events that could even be `interpreted' as a `flood' overwhelming the earth in that year; so even the vaguest, most symbolism-finding of astrologists were in trouble.] But while there were a few weeks of embarrassment for the astrologers of Europe, the whole incident had been forgotten within a month or so and astrologers were again accepting invitations to cast the horoscope of this infant prince or that republic.'"

Probably nothing can reach such people who believe what they want to believe in spite of any and all actual proof to the contrary. The same, of course, applies to religious belief. You would think, if a person claims to believe strongly that the Bible is the word of God, that clearly stated principles found in the word of God would be all that is needed to change a contrary belief in his mind. But this is rarely so.

Astrology is Condemned in the Bible

For example, astrology is clearly condemned in the Bible. But you can point out these scriptures to die-hard astrology "worshipers" who also claim to believe the Bible, and they will most often ignore it or rationalize it away.

"[Astrology] is essentially the same as astromancy, divination by stars." - Universal Standard Encyclopedia, 1955, Vol. 2, p. 471.

"as·trol·o·gy .... divination that treats of the supposed influences of the stars upon human affairs and of foretelling terrestial events by their positions and aspects" - Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1962, Merriam-Webster.

"There shall not be found among you any one who...practices divination.... For whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD [Jehovah]" - Deut. 18:10-12, RSV. Cf. Is. 47:10-13.

"Only one nation in all the ancient world stood resolutely against the ubiquitous practice of astrology --- the fiercely independent Hebrews. .... Logically, astrology and Christianity were totally irreconcilable, as are Judaism and astrology, but an accommodation of sorts was finally worked out. For a while, when astrological influence sank in Europe it thrived among the Arabs who reintroduced it after the fervor of the early Christian purists was tempered." - p. 19, Myths of the Space Age, Cohen, 1965.

And who were among these "early Christian purists" who strongly and successfully resisted astrology and other forms of divination? Jesus Christ, the Apostles, and the Christian Fathers of the first two centuries (at least)

"My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads to idolatry. Be neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to look at these things, for out of all these idolatry is engendered." - The Didache, Chapter 3.

Why even "Saint" Constantine in the 4th century and "Saint" Augustine in the early 5th century would not tolerate it:

"`Saint' Augustine ... rejected the `false and noxious opinions' of astrologers." - from Augustine's The City of God, Book V, Chapters 7-9, (as quoted on p. 3 in The Watchtower of 1 September, 1996).

"After the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity, he had all the astrologers in Constantinople whipped and run out of town". - p. 19, Cohen.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

1. But this is exactly what the vast majority of "horoscopes" throughout the world do - especially all those found in daily newspapers. They base their descriptions and predictions on the single (and by far most powerful and important) factor of birthdate. If this cannot be relied on for a reasonably accurate description, then nothing in astrology can!

2. The slightest variations in altitude of birthplace, then, would cause a great influence on individuals by this most influential planet of all. This factor alone (if there is any real influence by heavenly bodies) should completely overshadow the infinitesimal influence of other planets and stars. And yet it is not even considered by astrologers!

3. Each one of these different systems of astrology will give very different descriptions and predictions for the very same birth moment. Since they contradict each other, only one could possibly be true (and most likely none of them). But the vast throngs who believe in each system are equally loyal to their own system. Therefore, absolute faith, loyalty, and numbers of adherents mean absolutely nothing in determining truth in the area of astrology (as in religion itself). Those who want to believe will believe in spite of any proof to the contrary - no matter how conclusive and absolute.

For much more, see:

Astrology (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses Category)


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