Point/Counterpoint: Astrology

Kimia Ashraf and Liam Sherman

Point: Celestial Circumstances

Kimia Ashraf, Staff Writer

It is often thought that the study of the relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world, otherwise known as astrology, lacks sufficient scientific evidence to be true. Though that hat may stand true, there is not enough evidence to prove that the celestial bodies in our universe are telling us something, but lack of proof is not proof against. Nevertheless, astrology can be a fun and light pastime for many.

Many astrologists argue that pure experience trumps deductive reasoning, and in the modern era every app seems to be telling us to seek out advice based on astrological movements and symbols. While these may not truly unveil personalities or futures, people all over the world keep up with these readings. In short, even if those reading their horoscope have little faith that what they are reading is accurate, it might impact their future choices and/or thinking patterns simply because it is on their minds.

If something coincidentally aligns with what one’s previous astrological reading says, it is often human nature to wonder if there is some truth to this concept.  If a person takes a new job, for example, and benefits from it, maybe that move was motivated by an astrological reading, and the person still benefits. Of course, they are not benefitting from the astrology directly, but if the stars can foster a positive perspective towards a milestone or change, then why are people firmly against astrology? It only often fosters a confirmation of existing beliefs or serves a enjoyable distraction.

We accept the “help” of astrology, whether or not we believe in the science behind it or not. That explains the popularity of astrology websites or mystical practices involving the stars; it can contribute to peace of mind. Peace of mind is vital, because it ends worry. Many people get uncomfortable with the idea of uncertainty, causing them to resort to some kind of prediction for what is to come. Some do this for the sole purpose of entertainment, while others resort to astrological readings for some assurance, confirmation, or knowledge.

The popularity of reading astrology sign traits that align with one’s birthday and keeping up with daily horoscopes in an abundance of categories. We have easy access to astrology through the technology and media in today’s era. Often, the question “when is your birthday?” arises in a conversation to determine the personality traits aligning with one’s star, moon, or rising sign. Compatibility, likes and dislikes, and shreds of distinct qualities are deemed to be revealed through this specific science, and many find it as a source of confirmation and validation. People like their existing thoughts to be validated and backed-up…     

So, if today’s zodiac may “confirm” good fortune ahead, it will be read and shared all over the world, whether it follows the scientific method or not.

Counterpoint: Astrology is wrong

Liam Sherman, News Editor

Astrology is defined by dictionary.com as “the divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects.” It is the belief that the motions of celestial bodies directly affect everyone’s lives. This is, of course, supported by no scientific evidence.

Astrology dates back to as early as 3000 B.C.E, with the ancient Babylonians recording astronomical measurements and inventing the concept of the zodiac. This then became associated with their pantheon of gods, and thus astronomical objects became tied to ideas of divine influence. Astrology has changed over time, the Greeks practiced it differently, and its re-emergence in the 20th century has also lead to evolutions in how the heavens are interpreted. But astrologies core principles are over 5000 years old.

This is my first issue with astrology; It is based on a system developed when humanity knew nothing about the nature of celestial objects. Stars and planets alike were just points of light in the sky, and the sun and the moon were physical manifestations of gods. We now know, of course, the actual structure of these objects. The moon is a big spherical rock. The sun, and other stars, are balls of mostly hydrogen, furnaces where nuclear fusion smashes atomic nuclei to form denser elements. Additionally, stars are not close to earth as early astrologers thought, they are light years away at the closest, and billions of light years away at the furthest. The moon and stars objects are marvels of science, but not mystical symbols influencing your daily life. The only difference between the sun and other stars in the sky is their distance from us.

Thus we come to my main issue with astrology. Even ignoring that it was built on a flawed model of what celestial bodies are, how does astrology directly cause changes in human behavior? In doing research for this article I have tried to find a website that gives me a direct answer to this question, that tell what “force” or “field” is emitted by celestial objects that affects human brain chemistry and thus our behavior. I have thus far been unsuccessful. This is my main problem with pseudoscience like astrology. It gives no mechanism for how it works, no measurable quantity that could be used to specifically and predictably gage outcomes, conduct studies, or in any way verify its existence. Said succinctly, astrology blatantly ignores the scientific method and all it teaches us.

The obvious conclusion that can be drawn from this is that astrology is not real. There is no force penetrating the cosmos emitted by distant objects causing you to have a specific disposition because you were born under a certain star sign. Astrology is just another ancient system for explaining things that 5000 years ago we could not understand. There is nothing wrong with being interested in the astronomical systems of ancient cultures, but people need to view astrology the same way we view junk science from the 18th century like phrenology, with potential sociological interest, but also a healthy understanding that it has absolutely no bearing on the real world.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons