Topic of the Week – Astrology

I haven’t written much about astrology before, except for one entry, and that is because I really have no interest in astrology and never have. I have always viewed it as a silly thing that was a left over from the time before science and empirical reason came to the forefront of human thought.

Growing up, I was fascinated with astronomy and was quite the amateur astronomer in my youth, spending countless nights, even in the coldest of winters, outside with my telescope. Knowing how the universe operated completely negated the possibility that astrology could possibly be anything but superstition and wishful thinking.

The Twitterspace has been, well, atwitter, about astrology ever since the director of the Minnesota Planetarium Society commented in a local newspaper interview that, due to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth’s axis of rotation, called precession, that the Zodiac signs have changed since ancient times. Precession caused the stars to appear to gradually move over time in relation to fixed points on earth. For example, the current pole star, or north star, Polaris, will no longer be the pole star in another 12,000 years.

The precession also effects the ecliptic plane, which is where the Zodiacal constellations are located. As a result, the supposed sign you were born under is actually now not that sign anymore. As Phil Plait puts is on his Bad Astronomy blog:

“If you were born on March 22, you were an Aries… if you went by the original timing of when the Sun was in Aries. But now, millennia later, the Sun is actually in Pisces on that date. And it won’t be much longer before it’s in Aquarius in late March (hence “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius”)”

Basically, astrology is based on the positions of stars and planets as they were known well over 2000 years ago. Their positions in the sky in relation to earth change over time and astrology has no way to account for this, so even if there were something to it (which there isn’t), it would slowly have become more and more inaccurate over time. Or course, there is nothing to it. At all. As Penn & Teller have said on their show, Bullshit, astrology is – bullshit!

I was chatting with a friend today and he related to me a conversation that he had with a friend who believes in astrology. He told her that he thought astrology was a bullshit belief. She got indignant and said something to the effect of, “Oh, you wouldn’t say something like about someone’s religion.” He replied, “As a matter of fact…”. That ended the conversation pretty quickly.

If you really want an excellent explanation of why astrology is complete and utter BS, you can’t do better than Phil Plait’s in-depth take down of astrology. I’d also highly recommend reading his book, Bad Astronomy. In it he corrects many common astronomy misconceptions.

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