A Way To Challenge Believers of Astrology

In response to the new Astrology channel at Patheos, Fred Clark offers this fantastic method of dealing with anyone who believes in horoscopes (though he says he no longer uses it):

When someone asks what your sign is, tell them you’re an Aries (unless you really are an Aries, in which case, tell them something else).

If they respond with a detailed description of why that’s appropriate and why, yes, you do seem to embody the classic characteristics of an Aries, admit that you were lying. Tell them you’re not really an Aries, but actually a Gemini (unless you really are a Gemini).

If they tell you that lying about your sign was a very Gemini thing to have done, and then explain how this just confirms that you really are such a total Gemini, interrupt to say that you were once again lying.

In theory, you could keep this up, repeating the process 11 times. My personal record was four rounds.

Fred doesn’t do it anymore, he says, because he believes it’s more mean than funny. I don’t think it matters. Ridiculing ideas can often be the most effective way to combat them and this method might actually open the eyes of someone who believes in such nonsense.

There’s another option I like, too, which is to cut up the horoscopes from a newspaper and ask the believer to match the description with the sign of the zodiac. (It’s on my list of things to do in Statistics class, too.) The odds that anyone will match them all up is essentially zero. The odds that anyone will even get close is hardly any better.

Astrology might be fun for the sake of entertainment, but it’s a scam, and people have lost a lot of money going to an astrologer or psychic for advice.

(image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Daniel

    Even if it weren’t otherwise obvious bs, I have known at least three sets of twins with wildly divergent lives and personalities.

    • Lagerbaer

       Why, that’s SO typical of twins :-P

  • http://www.helensotiriadis.com/ helen sotiriadis

    i’ve totally done this exact same thing.  some of my victims don’t talk to me anymore.

    • jdm8

      Sometimes, someone not talking to me is a beneficial outcome. I don’t need to be told stupid falsehoods.

      One thing I’ve heard being done that doesn’t seem so insulting is to have a pre-cooked horoscope to everyone in a group, and it would be the same horoscope for every sign but they don’t know that, they only have a horoscope with their sign, have them confirm the accuracy, then have them share their horoscope.

      • Michael

        Sadly, the fake reading example also works with perfectly scientific things. All it shows is that people can’t self-diagnose and will believe someone who seems to be an expert.

      • Sam Piip

        Another option is to take a selection of horoscopes, cut out the designations, scramble them, and have “professionals” attempt to assign the labels again. Any statistician could give you the odds of getting even half right.

        Do this with any normal profession, separating the initial state from the result, and any who had a similar hit rate would be fired.

    • CultOfReason

      That could be a good thing ;-)

    • starskeptic

      Helen – very cool use of the globes in those shots on your website…

      • http://www.helensotiriadis.com/ helen sotiriadis

        thanks :-)

  • Michael

    … yeah, I don’t know any astrology believers who talk like that. Maybe it’s an American thing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Baerg/100000827478206 Jim Baerg

    What sign was I born under?
    “Maternity Ward”

    • starskeptic

      Got left in the hallway, Jim?

  • RowanVT

    I was never able to believe in astrology. I am a Libra and just about the most un-libra person in existence. The only think that I have in common with the typical description for the sign is that I don’t like conflict and so try to act as a peacemaker at work.
    For everything else though… I’m messy, I hate shopping, couldn’t care less about my appearance. I’m not elegant or charming, I’m more intellectual than artistic, and I have no problem with messy jobs. I’m a registered vet tech for goodness sake! My job involves vomit, diarrhea and pus more often than not!  So yeah, total pile of bull.

    • allein

      Except for that last part, you could be describing me :)

    • Lagerbaer

       Well… who does answer “yes” on the question “do you like conflict”?

  • starskeptic

    I tell them that I don’t believe in astrology – but that I’m a Taurus and we’re naturally skeptical…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

      Actually, current evidence from the General Social Survey suggests that it’s the winter signs who are more likely to consider Astrology not at all scientific.

      I am not making this up.

      • starskeptic

        Of course you understand that when I said Taurus I meant Capricorn…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I’ve done this exact thing for fifty years. When I was 12, I thought astrology was bullshit, and I resented anyone who thought they could “peg” me and my traits and personality from afar simply by knowing my astrological sun sign, or even my more detailed horoscope.

    So I lie with a randomly different incorrect sign every time, and when they say “Oh you’re so much like a _____, ” and they go into detail,  I tell them I lied.

    I don’t do it to be mean. I do it to challenge their superstition. Unchallenged superstitions lead to unchallenged irrational actions, which can be very dangerous.

  • Satari

    Clueless…just another belief.

  • Persephone

    I’m counting the days until Fred joins The Clergy Project.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Whenever I get asked my star sigh I reply carrot. 

    • Piet Puk

      I’m a Jack Russel.

      • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

        I’ve always said my sign is “No right turn”.

        • Michaelbrice

          Mine is “Slippery when Wet”.

          • starskeptic

            Not only can’t uteri “shut that whole thing down” – they also appear unable to keep from spraying newborns willy-nilly…

  • Miss_Beara

    Dr. Oz, in all of his wisdom, had a numerologist on his show last week. She was telling him and the audience how your number, add up all of your birthday digits, defines who you are. Everything she was saying could apply to anyone, not just a specific numbered person. And she talked so fast like a used car salesman. I don’t know if Oz actually believes in this, I know he had psychics and pseudoscience on his show before, but if he doesn’t, why would he have it on his show in the first place? Ratings? 

    Astrology, numerology, psychics, tarot cards… people actually believe in this mumbo jumbo. 

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

      Oz is a total flake. i’m amazed how popular his show is, but then i remember that close to 50% of this country will likely vote for a guy who wears magic underwear. 

      • starskeptic

        Now THAT is putting things in perspective…

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      I think belief in mumbo jumbo gives some people a little excitement in their otherwise boring lives, it gives them reassurance that there is some kind of parental law and order in what otherwise looks like a chaotic, impersonal universe, and it gives them the illusion of a bit of power and control when they often feel powerless and without control.

      Particularly in the mumbo jumbo about people, such as astrology and numerology, it offers a shortcut to “knowing” someone without having to go to the effort and risk of actually meeting them, talking with them, and sharing information. It appeals to adults who are insecure kids inside.

    • allein

      I work in books, and in the copy room in my area there are shelves of books that are free for the taking (vendor samples and whatnot). Most of it is crap but occasionally I find something good. A few weeks ago there was a numerology book for the number 1; my birthday is October 1st so I picked it up to flip through for the fun of it. Didn’t describe me much at all.

      Dr. Oz was on Celebrity Jeopardy this summer; everyone else used their first names, but his screen said “Dr. Oz.” I rolled my eyes every time they showed it.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    the history of astrology is fascinating. yes, it’s very silly to believe it has merit as a “science.” but it has had such an impact on so many cultures over the span of human history. the ancients took it really, really seriously. wars that determined the fates of empires were fought, or not, on the basis of what some astrologer said about the stars that day. it’s an amazing testament to the power of the human mind to find patterns and meaning when there is in fact none. 

    i enjoy it just for the fun of it, as a lark and moment of entertainment when i’m bored with reality. sort of like how once or twice a year, i’ll buy a lotto ticket. once in a blue moon, i’ll read my ‘scope and chat up a friend about “what it means” with respect to whatever is happening in my life. sometimes it’s good to be silly. 

  • Trickster Goddess

    If someone asks you your astrological sign, challenge them to figure it out based on your personality.

    • Sindigo

      That’s what I’ve always done.
      “What’s your sign?”
      Me: “You tell me.”
      “Aries.”
      Me: “Shit.” *

      *Actual conversation I had recently.

      • Gus Snarp

        There’s a one in twelve shot of that happening, which isn’t really that bad, which is the problem with that approach, of course.

        • Sindigo

          No, it’s definitely evidence that horoscopes are real. I’m never inviting that girl to my birthday party again. She freaks me out.

          • astrofaces

            LOL! She asked you your birth sign at your birthday party and freaked you out! LOL!!! ;-) Too funny!

        • Lagerbaer

           The chances are actually higher for people who do believe in horoscopes, because when asked about their personality they will recite the traits associated with their sign.

  • lefty

    I wish there was a 13th sign for assholes. all the bad traits

    • starskeptic

      You have to think of a name and a symbol too – that’s too good an idea to just leave it there…

  • Don Gwinn

    My friends are way too scientific and progressive to be taken in by astrology as anything other than a fun pastime . . . . .

    . . . . so instead they want to tell me my Enneagram number.
    Oy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ecolter Elisha Colter

    My high school newspaper decided to run a horoscope, which I wrote (under an appropriately mystical pseudonym, of course). People went on and on about how accurate it was! Our adviser finally told me I had to write something positive for Cancer (a kid who I had a love-hate relationship with was a Cancer so his horoscope somehow always ended up being something depressing). People never seemed to catch on that it was just something the newspaper nerds were doing for a laugh.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    As a Gemini, I am really drawn to the playfulness of this approach. 

    Actually, I’m just kidding, I’m a Pisces. 
    Psych…. I’m actually a Virgo.
    Well, not really….

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

    All I ever use are my twin sons. They are completely different personalities born 5 minutes apart.

  • Louis Cypher

    Guess he’s not the scientific type, huh?

  • Gus Snarp

    Mean? To show people that astrology is bull? What’s mean about that?

    On the other hand, I seem to be the only person in the world who hasn’t had anyone ask them their sign since they were in high school. Where are all these astrology true believers? 

  • Alexis

    I was born at midnight on the cusp between two signs. Does that make me a bicuspid or a cuspidor?

    • starskeptic

      I’m so confused I can’t even spit!

  • Mark Hunter

    I say I was born when the sun was in Ophiuchus.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiuchus  It drives them crazy they don’t know it’s the 13th constellation of the zodiac.

  • Ibis3

    There’s another option I like, too, which is to cut up the horoscopes
    from a newspaper and ask the believer to match the description with the
    sign of the zodiac.

    Pointless. Most believers in astrology don’t believe that newspapers print “accurate” astrology. It would be like pointing to fortune cookie slips to debunk psychic precognition.

    • John

       Then do the same thing with horoscopes from a source they would consider “legitimate.”  I expect the results will be the same.

  • Antinomian

    Uranus moving into the side window while passing a police officer portends an indecent exposure charge.

    Youthful indescretion…

  • Ryan

    I check my horoscopes ( I follow three in local papers) at the end of the day, just as a fun thing to do. Once, my horoscope said something about an unexpected visitor from out of town on the same day a close friend of mine from out of state rolled through town for a few hours. He was just passing through, but thought he’d hit me up for lunch.
    That was one good guess in 13 years of reading daily horoscopes. It’s fun, but I put no faith at all into them. I know people that lead their lives according to those things. One of my aunts is really into all that new agey woo, so I’ve been typing up her horoscope from the Onion and e-mailing it to her. Hoping it will make her more entertaining for the holidays this year.


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