Astronomy Answers
AstronomyAnswerBook: Astrology

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1. Astrology ... 2. The Methods of Astrologers ... 3. Can It Hurt To Believe In Astrology? ... 4. Stars Know Nothing About You ... 5. The Color, Element, Or Stone That Is Associated With A Constellation

This page answers questions about astrology. The questions are:

1. Astrology

Astrology is based on the very old idea that things that happen on Earth are associated with things that happen in the sky. If that is true, and if you can predict what is going to happen in the sky, then you should be able to predict what will happen on Earth. A long time ago, people thought that the sky said things only about divine or at least important people on Earth, such as kings, but later astrologers thought that the position of the planets says something about the life of ordinary people, too.

Astrological predictions do not do any better in scientific tests than similar but random predictions. It is often difficult to test astrological predictions, because they are often rather vague and are almost never about measurable things of which you can easily tell whether they changed in the predicted way. In science, these kinds of predictions would not be acceptable.

There is no scientific basis for astrology. The idea that things happening in the sky are tied to the kinds of things that astrologers predict (about money and love and success or failure in life) is very implausible, scientifically speaking. Scientists have seen no indications that planets have influence on Earth except through their gravity, through the sunlight that they reflect, and through the thermal radiation that they emit. The influence of all of these things is enormously less than the influence of Earth-bound things such as people and buildings in your area, but those are never taken into account by astrologers. If astrology is correct, then there must be a mysterious power that works only between planets and people, but there is no scientific proof at all for such a force.

I would not put much trust in astrological predictions, and would most certainly not let astrology guide any decision involving money. Even if there were any truth to astrology (which I don't think), I would not know which astrologer was good an reliable and which one was not.


2. The Methods of Astrologers

I am not an astrologer. As far as I know, astrologers make predictions based on the location of the Sun, Moon, and planets in the sky, and on unexpected phenomena in the sky, such as comets. One does not need any special instruments to observe these things. One doesn't even need to take any observations at all anymore to know the location of the Sun, Moon, and planets in the sky, because those can nowadays be predicted very accurately.

An astrologer needs some method to derive a prediction or conclusion from the observations. I do not expect that all astrologers use the exact same methods and I also do not expect that they would derive the exact same prediction from the same observations. Astrologers assume that each sign of the zodiac (i.e., each position along the ecliptic in the sky) and each planet has influence on (or is associated with) certain things, such as love or money or war or sickness. If a certain planet is in a certain sign of the zodiac, then a prediction is made based on the assumed characteristics associated with the sign and the planet. Astrologers believe that the locations of the planets at your birth indicates which planets or signs of the zodiac or other astrological things are especially important for your life.

This sounds quite simple, but there are all kinds of problems. What does it mean if for example one planet indicates that you'll get sick, but another planet at the same time indicates that you won't get sick? So, astrologers also have to know how to combine all of those different (and sometimes contradictory) influences.

So how do you find out which planet or sign has influence over which aspect of your life, or how you should combine all of those influences? A scientist (such as an astronomer) would use the scientific method for that, but that method yields the conclusion that there are no such influences from planets and signs of the zodiac, so astrologers don't use the scientific method. I don't know what other methods they do use today.

The ancient Babylonians practiced astrology already more than twenty centuries ago. They noted down the locations of the planets and also what important things happened on Earth, and they assumed that if the same planets would return to the same positions again, then those same important things would happen again as well. Perhaps astrologers today still make that assumption. That assumption is not easy to use, either: If something important happens today, then which of the planets caused it? And would the same important thing happen again only if the planet was within 1 degree of the exact same position again, or is it good enough if the planet is within, say, 30 degrees of the same position again? Or is perhaps only the distance of that planet from the Sun important? Or the distances between the planets, or from the Moon? There are so many possibilities. It seems likely that different astrologers who work independently from one another will come to different conclusions.

If you want to know more about the methods of an astrologer, then you could read some books about astrology, or ask an astrologer. But science thinks that astrology is nonsense.


3. Can It Hurt To Believe In Astrology?

Suppose an astrologer offers to predict, in exchange for $58, a period of opportunities to get something that you want, such as money or love. Should you accept such an offer?

You may think that "there's no harm in believing", but that is not correct. If the astrologer's predictions turn out to be worthless, then you'll have lost $58. That's only "no harm" if losing $58 doesn't make any difference to you. If I spend $58 on something, then I want to be sure that I get my money's worth. In this case, there is no guarantee of anything, except that you'll be $58 poorer. And if the prediction is about financial opportunities, then any opportunity that the astrologer encourages you to seize is likely to carry risk of losing more money. In general, chances for great gains go together with risk of great losses.

The big problem with astrology is that its predictions are so vague that you can't easily tell whether they came true or not. They talk of "opportunities" and "favorable conditions" and "chances", which therefore may or may not lead to positive tangible results. With hindsight, they can nearly always find something that seems to fit their predictions, even if those things fall far short of what you expected. If they can't find anything at all that fits their predictions, then they're still in the clear, because then they can still truthfully say that they only claimed that the conditions were favorable, which is not at all the same as claiming that it is a sure bet. Perhaps some other planet caused unexpected opposition, or you didn't have "harmonic" thoughts, or you did not believe hard enough, or you didn't provide your time of birth accurately enough, or you listened to some scientist with bad vibes, or some other excuse. There is no way for you to prove that the astrologer provided a defective service, so they can't lose.

Astrologer's ads tend to provide positive testimonials from satisfied customers. You can't tell if those testimonials are real, and you certainly can't tell if perhaps the astrologer has had many more dissatisfied customers than satisfied customers (because the astrologer is hardly likely to display testimonials from dissatisfied customers), so the testimonials are meaningless for determining if the predictions from the astrologer are better than predictions you could make yourself.

I strongly advise against taking any financial decisions based on astrological predictions, unless you can afford to lose the money, or if you see the astrological predictions as similar to random coin tosses or die casting.


4. Stars Know Nothing About You

Stars cannot tell how compatible you are to someone else. Stars do not know anything about people. That the stars can tell anything useful about things on Earth is an invention of astrologers, which they use to make money by having people pay them for their services.


5. The Color, Element, Or Stone That Is Associated With A Constellation

According to astrologers and other alternative people, certain earthly things are associated with the signs of the zodiac, such as a particular color or a particular element or a particular type of stone. I suppose that the idea is that the presence of such a thing encourages the characteristics of the corresponding astrological sign. I don't expect that all astrologers in all countries agree about which things (for example, which particular color) go with each sign.

In astronomy, there are no special color, element, or stone associated with any constellation.


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Last updated: 2016−02−07