Flipside Column: A Grounded Opinion

Tyler Rains, Writer

You probably know what astrology is, even if you don’t think you do. The conventional definition of astrology is the study of the movement and position of celestial bodies and its influence on human affairs and the natural world.1 However, it’s really just a fancy term for “horoscope” and “zodiac symbols,” despite the fact that it can be way more detailed than just those two terms.

Astrology has recently regained popularity. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was at its peak.2 With the coming of the internet, the astrology community became widespread once again. With its resurgence comes the question, is there any truth behind astrology?

The short answer is simple and clear: no. There is no empirical, peer-reviewed science showing any evidence that points towards there being any degree of truth behind astrology. The inherent problem with astrology is that it is infallible, meaning, there is no way to 100% disprove it. No matter how much evidence piles up against it, people can believe it because they feel like it’s accurate.

That is the issue with astrology; it has been highly unprogressive and its supporters make no effort to evaluate their theory in its confirmations and gaping flaws.3 It makes astrology a pseudoscience: a theory which is presented as scientific but really has no actual scientific basis.4

It even sounds like actual science: “astrology.” It sounds similar to “astronomy” or “biology” or “geology” — all real fields. It’s also based off of actual astronomy and celestial bodies, helping its image. Despite all of this, its main claims fall short. It’s an impressive illusion.

The main “scientific” appeal supporters make to justify how a celestial body like the moon can possibly affect or predict human emotions or actions is through gravity. They use the moon’s effect on the tide as an example of the impact it has on our natural world. They postulate that if the moon could affect something like the tide, then it might affect humans, especially because we are between 50-75% water.5

This appears logical at first but fails to look at WHY the moon affects the tides. Tides are massive events. They occur because of the “gravitational effect on one side of an object (like Earth) compared to the other,” according to LiveScience.6 However, there is no measurable difference in a human body — we are too small. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), even on the Great Lakes the tide never exceeds two inches.7

Need further proof? A meta-analysis of 37 studies on the moon’s effect on human behavior found that the moon accounted for less than a 0.05% variation.8 Whenever you feel like a horoscope nailed your personality, it’s probably because it did. But how could it not? It makes sweeping generalizations, such as saying that you are happy, or energetic, independent, or adventurous.

French psychologist Michael Gauquelin has one famous experiment that shows how open most definitions are. He sent 500 people what they thought was their chart, but was actually the horoscope of a serial killer. 95% of the people said that the chart was spot on and fit them perfectly.9 That is just one study of numerous which shows little to no correlation between a zodiac sign, its horoscope, and a human personality.

Test it for yourself. Next time you see horoscopes listed, cover up all their names, read the description, and pick the one which best fits you. Chances are, it is the wrong zodiac. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you had a 1/12 chance of getting your actual zodiac symbol. Heck, sometimes if you go from one website to another, you’ll find that the horoscope on one is completely different than the horoscope from the exact same zodiac on the other.

This is all without mention of numerous other flaws. For example, why do they pick your date of birth to decide your zodiac symbol and not, say, when your brain was formed in the womb or the date of your conception? It would make more sense that you would be influenced by celestial bodies at this point because the younger you are, typically the higher percentage of water you are made up of.10

What about the fact that zodiacs are roughly based off of celestial bodies? What happens when we discover new exo-planets the size of Pluto?11 Or asteroids with considerable gravitational effect? Or how constellations aren’t fixed? These couldn’t have possibly been accounted for when the map was originally designed.

Astrology is more in-depth than what I have mentioned. The horoscopes that most people pay attention to are regarded by “professional” astrologists as your sun sign. There are others astrological ideas such as your birthday being on a cusp, moon signs, rising signs, houses, and elemental signs.12 They go very in depth about when you are born, down to the exact location, minute, and angle of the sun.

This is supposed to make your zodiac more specific and tailored to you, leading to more accurate results. However, it once again still fails any study testing it. If you try it and find that it fits you, it’s because they are still very general. Plus you usually go in expecting it to work and describe you, so if you find only one or two words that are correct, then you’ll believe it is accurate. No matter how intricate the theory is made (which conveniently makes it seem more scientific), astrology still cannot answer why celestial bodies influence you, not to mention the host of other logical gaps.

Sure, astrology can be a fun source of entertainment for you and your friends, and that’s fantastic. Just don’t put too much faith in it. Don’t allow it to make you think that you are like anyone else and have a personality based on the movement of far-off balls of particles. And please don’t pay $75 to get your “birth chart” from a “professional” astrologist.13 It is a scam.

Astrology at its best can be a good time and a fun conversation starter, and at worst can make people feel restricted and scammed. Just don’t take it too seriously, okay?