Topic Editor: Steven Novella
Astrology refers to a number of ancient systems of belief that relate the positions of the planets and constellations to events on Earth. In Western culture, the Zodiac is central – twelve constellations that the apparent position of the sun moves through throughout the year – Cancer, Leo, etc. So-called sun-sign astrology predicts the personality and fate of individuals based upon the date of their birth – which is supposed to correlate to the constellation where the sun was positioned.
Another form of astrology is referred to as sidereal astrology, and considers not only the sun-sign of birth but also the position of the stars on the horizon at the moment of birth (to within 4 minutes).
Astrology, of any type, is considered by mainstream scientists to be a classic pseudoscience. It is not based upon any validated principles of astronomy, physics, cosmology, or any scientific discipline. There is no plausible mechanism by which the positions of the planets and stars from the perspective of earth can influence the personality of an individual, or their “fate.”
There are also significant practical problems with the various forms of astrology. For example, due to the precession of the equinoxes, the sun is no longer in the constellations that correspond to the classic dates created 2,500 years ago in Babylonia. This means that during the alleged time of Aries the sun is actually in Pisces. Ancient astrologers did not know of precession (as the earth rotates, its axis slowly shifts) so they made no allowances for it.
Sidereal astrology has a separate problem. The basic beliefs of this system were worked out centuries ago, prior to the advent of accurate clocks and time keeping. It was not possible to note the precise time of birth, and it was not commonly practiced to note the position of the stars at the moment of birth. So one wonders how the basic prinicples were worked out.
Even today, while the time of birth is generally noted, it is not a high priority, and accuracy within 4 minutes is not typical.
But most importantly – there is no empirical evidence to show that any astrological system has any predictive power. Personality profiles do not correspond to astrological signs.
- Astrology Convention in Denver (Steven Novella, May 8 2008)
- Does anybody know what time it is? WOO time! (Mike Lacelle, March 26 2009)
- Retro Fit (Evan Bernstein, September 29 2008)
- United Astrology Conference: Loserfest 2008 (Evan Bernstein, May 19 2008)
- Why You Should Not Use CareerBuilder.com (Rebecca Watson, October 28 2008)
- Episode #18 – Astrology vs Astronomy
- Episode #62 – Psychic Astrology
- Episode #63 – Randi Speaks: Business Astrology
- Episode #89 – Astrology Fails Again
- Astronomy Cast Episode #39 – Interview with Steven Novella on Astrology and UFOs (Host- Fraser Cain, June 4 2007)
- Bad Astronomy – Astrology Page (Phil Plait)
- The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Astrology (Robert T. Carroll)