The Quick Astrology Test

What’s the simplest way to show that astrology is bunk when logic and rational arguments just won’t work?

The always awesome Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us a quick experiment we can do in under a minute:

I can’t wait to read his new book The Pluto Files.

(via Atheist Media Blog)

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  • http://zeroanaphora.blogspot.com/ Abbie

    To be fair, I don’t think any believers in astrology actually believe newspaper horoscopes. Not that “real” astrology is any more… real.

    I saw Tyson on the Daily Show recently; I think I like him a lot.

  • Ed

    Finally, a fool-proof/friendly astrology debunker!

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve described my mildly sadistic fun before:

    The astrology believer asks me what is my sign, I pick the wrong one randomly, and they invariably say, “Oh I knew that would be your sign! You’re so exactly like that!”

    Then I tell them I lied.

  • nowoo

    Ha ha. I remember that. I was at TAM, and I was [one of] the Ophiucan[s] who raised his hand for that question.

  • angelikapaparika

    going with what abbie says, no you cant believe what the newspaper or magazine horoscopes tell you. those are created more for fun or entertainment. and of course more than 1/12 of the people thought it applied to them – since they are for fun they are very generalized and can apply to anyone!

    there is a lot more explanation to astrology than just knowing what sign you are now or what you would have been 2000 years ago but it would take too long to explain it all!!

  • Ubi Dubium

    Last time someone asked me what my sign was, I told them “No Right Turn”

    I’ve explained to my kids another clue that astrology is rubbish. Since gravitational pull falls off with the square of the distance, the obstetrician at your birth had more of a gravitational effect on you than did any of the planets.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi angelikapaparika,
    The primary claim of astrology seems to be that the stars and planets influence both our personalities and our destinies. If that is not a correct portrayal of astrology in your view, could you please help us to understand what astrology does claim? And if it is correct that those are the primary claims, could you please explain the mechanisms by which the stars and planets do influence our personalities and destinies? There’s plenty of room here, feel free to give as lengthy an explanation as you wish. I, and I think several others here, would be very interested.

  • http://www.uw-ssu.org Walker

    ugh… i love me some NDT but for the love of pete man turn down the gain

  • angelikapaparika

    let me start by saying that i am in no way an expert on the topic of astrology. its just something i find interesting simply because 10 years ago someone that i worked with for less than a week and hardly talked to came up to me one day and said “youre a virgo arent you?” i am a virgo and i wanted to know how she “knew” this.

    over the past 10 years, ive read books, researched and even written papers in college comparing astrology to religion. it is true that astrology claims that the alignment of stars and planets at the moment of birth affects our personalities and destinies. i believe this to an extent. i think that overall, in all the time that people have been observing and recording events occurring in the sky, there are trends or patterns that re-occur often enough while being “in” a certain sign or under the influence of a certain planet. because of these similarities, astrologers have a pretty good idea what they think will happen in a particular generation or even in an individuals life. but like i said i believe this to an extent.

    for the most part, we all have the ability to make decisions for ourselves. it is the constant decision making that shapes our destinies. there is no logical way a bunch of stars thousands of miles away can “say” that something is definitely going to happen because there is too much chance involved. if you were to take one decision you made today and change it, your whole day could have been totally different.

    really, i just find astrology interesting. i have noticed many traits of particular signs in myself, friends and family members yet i can also see instances where a person is not typical to their sign. i like to observe people and understanding astrology has helped me to understand how people react to others around them.

    honestly, it does kind of bug me when people say that astrology isnt real…i know its not a science and really cant be proven in any way (although with out astrology, there really wouldnt be astronomy) but there is a lot to be learned from past patterns that are re-occurring now. maybe it is all a coincidence or maybe “astro-history” is repeating itself, i dont know. me, im a virgo. and the characteristics of that sign do fit me pretty well. but i also have several other qualities in me that are typically more prominent in other signs. we are all born under one sign but the other 11 signs, as well as the sun, moon, etc, all affect us too – little parts of them help to make up the whole “you”, its just that the sign you are born under is most seen/shown to others. i hope that kinda explains what i think and it did wind up longer than i intended…in the end i just like astrology and i like to talk about it!

  • HL

    Astrology isn’t a belief system. It’ a fringe science (hence the “-ology”) much like cosmetology.

  • CatBallou

    Tyson was in Seattle this week to talk about his book and the decision to “demote” Pluto. It was highly entertaining and informative–he could switch to stand-up comedy if astrophysics doesn’t work out!

    And Angelikapaparika, “can’t be proven in any way” is a pretty good definition for “not real.”

  • Nicole

    When people ask me my sign, I get them to guess. I say “you’ve got a one in twelve chance of getting it right. Go ahead, guess.” They invariably pick three or four signs. So far, no one has gotten it right.

  • Jonsi

    If astrology had any merit, it would be EASY to test. All you’d have to do is design a personality test. If well designed, you could easily correlate answers with respective signs of the zodiac, and then when people took it, you could predict which sign they were based on their traits. 1/12 is random. Could it do better than that on a random sample of the population?

  • http://www.adultfanfiction.net Jaxxy

    Are you serious? Is Athiesm really just scientism, or something to that effect? I’m really trying to learn:

    Is it accurate to say, “An Athiest believes nothing other than what science dictates”?

    Help me here!

  • Humble GC

    I would love to give this guy credit for trying, unfortunately the belief this test is brilliant proves his severe ignorance of the subject he is arguing against. This attempt merely proves that believers in astrology WANT to believe that astrology works for them.

    In fact, this test blows the doors off astrology as well as a creationist disproving evolution by pointing at an ape in the zoo and asking a crowd if it is their great grandparent.

    As logical and seemingly educated individuals, people arguing against astrology should know that it and astronomy used to be the same science. Believing astronomy took off with all the validity and left astrology to haunt the back page of your sunday newspaper seems silly to me. Maybe as silly as believing in astrology might seem to a person who is quick to make judgements about subjects they have never taken the time to actually study.

    Any person who studies astrology (and is not trying to sell the newspaper they write for), will tell you that newspaper horoscopes use general or made up astrological information. All the arguments

    Richard Wade Says:
    “The astrology believer asks me what is my sign, I pick the wrong one randomly, and they invariably say, “Oh I knew that would be your sign! You’re so exactly like that!”

    – You are having conversations with people who have little or basic understanding of astrology. I’m glad you tell them you lied, maybe it will inspire them to go back and study more. Astrology is a lot more complex than just “your sign”. I’m assuming you don’t actually study astrology, so you wouldn’t know when to give credit where credit was due if your “pretend sign” happened to be a huge influence in your actual chart, or happens to be similar to your own actual sign.

    Your test is similar to flying another country with an MA accent and telling everyone you are from RI. You might find several people who are enthusiastic to recognize your east coast accent, but not know you are messing with them.

    Ubi Dubium Says:
    “the obstetrician at your birth had more of a gravitational effect on you than did any of the planets.”

    – “Planetary influence” is likely not gravitational. On a quantum level physical distance is pretty invalid. In fact, the more we delve into quantum physics the more possible it is for astrology to actually work.

    Richard Wade Says:
    “could you please help us to understand what astrology does claim? And if it is correct that those are the primary claims, could you please explain the mechanisms by which the stars and planets do influence our personalities and destinies?”

    – I’m sure this will be a disappointing answer, but astrology doesn’t claim anything, people claim things. Astrology is (for lack of a better explanation) mathematics using spectrums of expression. If you were to say that “mathematics claims reality has dimension.” then astrology claims the same about expression.

    I have no problem admitting there are aspects of astrology that we are not capable of understanding yet. Just like black holes however, we see the effect astrology has on it’s environment.

    Though you have been so generous in offering me as much room as I could possibly want to give you an entire class on astrology. I suggest actually going out and educating your self on the subject.

    If you really want to prove that it does or doesn’t work, learn to properly draw up a chart, learn the intricate facets, layers, angles, and dimensions required to actually understand astrology as well as the people who gave us math and astronomy. At that point you can say, “I researched astrology and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is fake.”

    Through study, you will find that questions about things like Ophiucus, the massive numbers of heavenly bodies in our sky, the sun not revolving around the earth, etc.. are pretty easily answered.

    Nicole Says:
    “When people ask me my sign, I get them to guess. I say “you’ve got a one in twelve chance of getting it right. Go ahead, guess.” They invariably pick three or four signs. So far, no one has gotten it right.”

    – These people either don’t know you well, don’t know astrology well, want to get in your pants and could care less about your “sign”, or something in your expression is more predominant than “your sign”.

    for example: “Your sign” is determined by the position of the sun on the ecliptic when you were born. Let’s pretend you were born in late January (making your sign Aquarius). Mercury (roughly your mental and communicative expression) was in Capricorn. and your time of birth places the most eastern point on the horizon (represents how you want others to view the way you express your self) in the sign of Virgo. Your Ruling planet (Uranus) is in Scorpio, and your Saturn (Capricorn’s ruling planet and therefor a strong influence for Mercury in your chart. Mercury happens to rule Virgo, so this expression would be a very dominant aspect of the above interplay) is also in Virgo. When asking someone to guess your sign, the likelihood of them picking Aquarius is pretty slim. They may guess Capricorn, Virgo, or even Taurus.

    This example isn’t even the chip at the top of the tip of the iceberg. Just your sun’s sign is not a valid test of astrology.

    Jonsi Says:
    “If astrology had any merit, it would be EASY to test. All you’d have to do is design a personality test. If well designed, you could easily correlate answers with respective signs of the zodiac, and then when people took it, you could predict which sign they were based on their traits. 1/12 is random. Could it do better than that on a random sample of the population?”

    Like a universal version of “wolfram|alpha” it would take years and years and years to code every astrological possibility into a database. Lets pretend you believe astrology is real. Now think about your personality, the way you act in the presence of every person you meet every day. The subtle way each of those people influence you by contrast and similarity. The different foods you crave at different times, your physical health, the times you get horny, artistic, or thoughtful, your family’s influence, your taste in clothing, your private thoughts, the funny faces you make in the mirror when you are alone in your bathroom… All of that can (with enough effort) be described by astrology. This is because astrology is just “expression math”

    I would love for your idea to be put into action. We wouldn’t have answers in our lifetime though.

    On the whole, believe what you want to believe. Just please educate your self before proclaiming to an audience that you have a foolproof way of debunking something you have never studied.

    I love me some Atheists, but seriously you should know by now that science only has the answers for right now. Those answers are changing all the time. If you are gonna bag on something, please make an effort to know what you are talking about.

    Sorry for any grammar or spelling errors, I don’t really feel like going back and reading through.

    Be Good =)