Your fate is not written in the stars

“The proposed mechanism is all out of proportion with the described effects,” vorjack says of astrology. And I agree.

The impetus for that post was the introduction of Patheos’ new Astrology channel.

I’m not a fan of astrology. I do not believe in it — do not believe it is true or helpful. As such I regard it with suspicion as a vehicle for hucksters.

But then I’m a Christian — an American evangelical Christian. So I’m not in any position to dismiss a belief system just because it may have been exploited by disingenuous hucksters over the years.

Plus I admire Patheos’ commitment to genuine, robust religious and spiritual pluralism. And that means celebrating such pluralism in the particular as well as in the abstract. More voices and more perspectives is a Good Thing, even when that means, by definition, more voices and more perspectives with which I disagree.

So while I remain critical of astrology as a belief system, I think the new Astrology channel is a good sign.

Here’s my astrology bit. I don’t do this anymore, and I don’t recommend that you do either, but here’s how it worked.

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.

I probably could have kept it up for five or even six rounds, but that’s when I figured out that this bit was funnier as a concept than it was in real life, where it just seemed kind of mean. And mean isn’t funny.

So don’t be mean. But don’t give anybody money to read the stars for you either.

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  • Albanaeon

    And funnily enough, Astrology probably still has a better predictive power than the Focus on the Family…

  • Jim Roberts

    Mostly because the predictions tend to be non-specific but, possibly.

    Funnily enough, I use a variation on Fred’s trick. When someone asks what sign I’m in, I tell them to tell me. Like Fred’s trick, I really don’t use it much because it’s mean more than it’s funny, but out of a sample of more than a dozen people who’ve guessed, none have guessed correctly. So, small sample size, but so far the predictive power looks to be less than chance.

  • wygrif

    Well FoF does work pretty well if you use it as a contrarian indicator.  

  • MikeJ

    I don’t mind patheos adding stupid channels. I mind them screwing up the way their blogs look.  They really made it one of the ugliest sites on the internet. 

    In other words, I’ve grown used to seeing stupidity all around me, but bad taste still offends.

  • AnonymousSam

    I don’t believe in foretelling, but I have a nasty tendency to discover that things I say today were said by people of whom I’m supposedly a reincarnation (including someone who shares my rather unique Hebrew name, who foretold his reincarnation a very short time before my birth).

    Precognition nothing, I’m continually surprised by postcognition.

  • PatBannon

    Doesn’t that sort of make your supposed past selves foretellers of your present self?

  • AnonymousSam

    No, and my collegiate deductive skills inform me of this because long hours of research, theological comparisons and rigorous philosophical challenging have produced the confirmed hypothesis that my alleged past selves were crackpots.

    Still, it’s annoying on a spiritual level to discover yourself being quoted by someone who died about six months before you were born. “Oy! Cut that out! Stop– plagiarizing me– in reverse! Linear time does not work this way! I am not educated-stupid!

  • PatBannon

    That makes sense. Liked for “Linear time does not [i]work[/i] this way!” I lol’d.

  • PatBannon

    …Like this, then?

  • http://jdm314.livejournal.com/ Mad Latinist

     Too bad you’re anonymous, as I’d love to hear the details.

  • AnonymousSam

    Blame the company I work for — they pretty much own my online identity, so anything I do has to be anonymous or under a pseudonym.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Robert Anton Wilson once noted that even if astronomical objects could affect our destinies, it’s still just one of many, many more immediate influences on our fate such as upbringing, genetics, education, socio-economic status, talent, ability, and dumb fuckin’ luck, to name a few.

  • aunursa

    I’ve fantasized about going to a large public event or calling into a show that features a guest who claims to contact the dead — like Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Ghost.  I would ask about my dear sister who was killed in a car accident two years ago, or my mother who succumbed to an illness the day after my birthday in 2005.  The medium would perform her show and assure me that my loved one is a better place, is happy, still cares for me, etc….

    And then I would deliver the punchline: I don’t have a sister, or my mother is alive and in good health (and perhaps in the audience with me.)

    Do they screen to identify skeptics and prevent us from participating?

  • Tom S

    They screen very very hard, in fact. It’s generally best to regard professional psychics as being a type of stage magician- the fact that they have no magical powers (and that it’s kind of insulting of them to lead people to believe that they do) doesn’t mean that they’re not quite good at faking it, nor that what they do doesn’t require quite a lot of skill.

  • Hawker40

    “I’ve fantasized about going to a large public event or calling into a show that features a guest who claims to contact the dead — like Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Ghost.  I would ask about my dear sister who was killed in a car accident two years ago, or my mother who succumbed to an illness the day after my birthday in 2005.  The medium would perform her show and assure me that my loved one is a better place, is happy, still cares for me, etc….And then I would deliver the punchline: I don’t have a sister, or my mother is alive and in good health (and perhaps in the audience with me.)Do they screen to identify skeptics and prevent us from participating?”

    James Randi (The Amazing Randi) used to do this on a regular basis, until he became too famous.  Then he recruited apprentices to do it for him.
    Yes, they absolutely look for skeptics and plants, to prevent public embarrassement.  You’d think that thier Incredible Psychic Powers(tm) would detect them before they made themselves look like fools.

  • Albanaeon

    Yes they screen guests.  One show that was famous for a while* was notorious for not only prescreening, but getting potential guests to fill out forms for what they would like to hear before hand.

    Even with this, there was a LOT of editing to get a show that had “remarkable” predictions for the loads of dross they actually got.

    *Can’t remember the name and don’t want to Google.  It was “Crossing Over” or something and was on SciFi, which I took as a really bad sign for the network.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Houdini and various associates were big into that sort of thing.

    Apparently it inadvertently convinced some people that he was just a more powerful psychic and able to use his magical powers to confound the less powerful people he was supposedly debunking.

  • D9000

    There used to be a ‘medium’ by the name of Doris Stokes, who was moderately famous here in UKia. She played an old dear, and she was rubbish, even for a medium. She didn’t even use cold reading skills much; her husband used to work the crowd beforehand. Anyway, she did a gig in Belfast, and it didn’t go well, the crowd became restive, and then one wag in the audience did very much as you describe, finally revealing that his ‘dead’ relative was sat next to him. This got a big laugh, and then everybody joined in, and that was pretty much the end of Doris’ career. (She carried on, but it was never the same again).

  • aunursa

    If reincarnation is true, can you “send a message to your next life?

  • Tom S

    I never understood the assumption that reincarnation, if it exists, would happen in chronological order. For one thing, the ever increasing number of people on the planet would seem to argue that it works the other way around

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Everyone I know personally who believes in reincarnation also believes that the supply of things-that-remain-constant-between-incarnations (hereafter “soul”) is not limited to Earth. A popular variation of that idea is that Something Really Important Is Going To Happen Soon and lots of souls are choosing to incarnate on Earth now in order to (participate in, cause, observe, etc.) that Important Something.

    For my own part, I’ve never understood the assumption that souls are 1:1 mapped to bodies. If I’m willing to posit that I share a soul with someone who died in 1743, it seems I should be equally willing to posit that I share a soul with someone who is currently alive in 2012.

  • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    There are several schools of thought that follow that to a logical conclusion:  If it is possible to be reincarnated, then it is possible that there is only one soul, it has just reincarnated into everyone, ever, at all times.  Some would name this soul Buddha (or God, if you prefer – I can’t imagine It is very picky about names).

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    In my own more mystical moments, I tend to think that the property of being able to have subjective experiences isn’t connected to any individual mind, and is a thing that every conscious being shares in some way. I can theoretically imagine all the particulars of my personality and memory being stripped away without removing that core of conscious experience. When they’re all gone, what’s left? Nothing of me, surely.

    I suppose you could interpret that either in a more Hindu-esque way as being about the universal world-soul, or in a more Buddhist way as being about perceptions not actually requiring any soul to perceive them.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Define your terms. It is clearly plausible, assuming the existence of the soul as something distinct from the body that is not created at some point between fertilization and (say) first communication and that is not destroyed on death, that someone who died more’n a quarter-century ago could have the same soul as me. It is no longer attached to their body and is therefore free to attach to mine. In order to hypothesize that my soul is the same soul as Himeko’s down the lane, there has to be time-travel involved, or else Himeko and I are for many purposes the same person, or perhaps incomplete when separate. (One definition of ‘soulmates’.) Whichever the scenario, there is an element involved that is not present if we assume that no one can reincarnate into a body that is alive at the same time as a previous incarnation, and that has to be considered when looking for the simplest explanation that fits the facts. Though one of those facts is that a finite supply of souls doesn’t account real well for the population increase.

  • Tom S

    If one assumes the soul is not bound by space, that it is a metaphysical object that does not have physical dimension and can move from point to point without moving through the space between those points, I see no reason to assume it would be bound by time, either. Time is as much a construct of the physical world as space is.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     FWIW, I agree with all of that. (I can’t tell whether you expected me to or not.)

    That said, if I want the simplest explanation that fits the facts, I don’t know why I’d be positing souls at all. Which suggests that if I’m positing souls in the first place, I’ve already discarded Occam’s Razor.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I like the notion that, due to overpopulation, animal souls are being reincarnated as humans before they’re really karmically ready for it.  I think it would explain a lot…

  • EllieMurasaki

    It would also imply that human nature has taken a noticeable turn for the…how do I say this. Worse? Animalistic? Insufficiently virtuous? Whatever the word is, I’m pretty sure recorded history indicates that human nature has been much the same since we invented writing.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Beetle souls. There’s always been plenty of beetles.

  • VMink

    Not to descend too far into geekery, but I did run an roleplaying game once set in a sort of ‘Dreamtime’ that was not connected to Waking, linear time.  The characters’ mortal lives would sometimes clash and bring confusing or elucidating images to them.  (It didn’t help that they eventually discovered they were once deities who had fled into mortal life to hide from a deicidal Metatron.)

  • Worthless Beast

    I once did that in a short story.  It was just hinted at because the story was about something else – and it was one of my experimental things in developing a fantasy world that I never really fully developed.  I had a character who had just escaped a “Hell” that people who could manipulate the brain tried to send him to talking to a dog that could control reincarnation (according to his culture’s myths) and the dog told him that his soul would be reincarnated in the past (from the point in time than he’d just been living in).

    Again, fiction. Fantasy fiction where I am “God” and can do whatever I want with my characters and whatever souls I want to give them.

    I write weird things.

    An argument for belief in reincarnation in real life could be that not everyone alive is a reincarnate, that many people are “new souls” – or the argument that a lot of people are souls from other planets or dimensions.  (That would… explain my life… a lot). Note that I’m not making a declaration of “belief” here, I am just exercising the speculative-fiction writing part of my mind to “worldbuild” how it “could work.” 

    I had fun on that Calvinist Dystopia topic.

  • Joshua

    I once asked a Hindu acquaintance of mine how the religion dealt with the current increase in human population. His answer was that extra souls exist in some kind of potential form, ready to be incarnated when needed.

    No idea whether this explanation is common or generally accepted throughout Hinduism, which seems to be a religion with astonishing variety.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    It seems to me that the absence of an afterlife is operationally indistinguishable from a scheme in which your soul goes back in time from the moment of death so that you can be reincarnated as yourself. (With total amnesia, of course.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In my less hopeful days I wonder if that endless cycle is what life really is. D:

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    I believe there was a new Twilight Zone episode about a hypnotherapist who tried to find out about her past lives, and ended up in a world where people wanted to forget their past lives. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0734720/

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I believe that it is not impossible for vague tendencies in personality traits to be  tied to the time of year when someone is born.  After all, some studies have found that January and February babies tend to be more likely to develop brain tumors as adults than babies born the rest of the year.  If season of birth can be tied to effects on the brain that way, why not in other ways, as well?

    But as far as one’s entire personality being determined by the exact moment one was born, that’s hogwash.  And I definitely don’t believe that the moment of one’s birth can  determine one’s future. 

  • alias Ernest Major

    That season of birth might be correlated with personality traits (within a region) is not obviously false – one can imagine it making a difference if ones first few months are spent in a cot in a dark, cold, room, or a pram in a warm sunny garden – but people have looked for such correlations, and have failed to find them.

  • http://twitter.com/HelenKistler Helen Kistler

    If you always celebrate your birthday in warm weather, does that affect your personality?

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I had a friend who had a theory about how the season you were born could affect personality – if some kids hit a particular development stage in the summer when they could go out and play vs winter when they were stuck inside – but I derailed it by pointing out he was born in Canada and I was born in Hawaii, so even if it did work it would be highly specific to a particular location.

  • Quixote

    In fact, kids who were born earlier in the school year cycle tend to be bigger than the kids born later in the cycle.  This confers an “accumulated advantage” as they get preferential training year after year.  The effect is profound enough that Canadian professional hockey players have birth-dates clustered at the beginning of the year.

    Most of what I know about this is from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.  I haven’t read any of the original research it was based on.

    If you’re predisposed to believing in astrology, it’s because their all born under the sign of Aquarius, which has an affinity for (frozen) water.

  • Ygorbla

    There’s lots of reasons why birth month could affect personality (though of course the effects would be statistical in nature, not predestination.)  In pre-industrial societies, you would get different amounts of food at different stages in your development based on your season of birth; you’re exposed to not just different temperatures but different diseases, people around you behaving differently and so forth.

    Of course, as you say, such an effect would be highly localized, dependent on culture, local weather patterns, etc.  But such a thing _could_ perhaps be the origin of beliefs in astrology, mingled with correlation / causation effects related to the stars…

    However, I think it’s simpler to just say that since the stars were so omnipresent, inexplicable, and important-seeming to ancient people, that they were just incredibly eager to tie them in to whatever they could.  I mean, think about it.  From the perspective of an ancient human with no understanding of the cosmos, the sun has clear ‘purpose.’  The meaning of the sun to an ancient civilization is obvious.  The moon’s ‘purpose’ is somewhat less clear, but it provides light at night, at least, and it gets meaning from its duality with the sun.

    The stars are an enigma.  Why are they there?  What do they mean?  To the early human mind, it would be unthinkable that something that dominates the entire dome of the sky — literally occupying half the world you see, half of the time — could have zero direct relevance to your life. It seems natural that people would poke and prod at that question until they came up with an answer, even if it was entirely without basis.

  • Cythraul

    Penn Jillette (with whom I don’t always agree) soemtimes describes astrology (at least the traits-based-on-month style astrology) as a form of bigotry.  He compares judging people based on when they’re born, to judging people based on where.

  • Tom S

    It’s my understanding that people who actually take astrology seriously generally believe in a kind that involves such complicated charts and figures and so forth that in practice, it’s a bit like Calvinism, a form of predestination that is so muddled by human error that the absolutist judgments it would seem to entail don’t really work out that way.

    Which is probably inevitably where any kind of of belief system that involves prediction will wind up, since obviously ‘falsifiable’ isn’t something you want there.

  • aunursa

    Based on the variety of topics that his partner and he sought to debunk on their Showtime series, I can’t imagine that anyone always agrees with Penn Jillette.

    EDIT: Interestingly, the first episode was “Talking to the Dead”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > I can’t imagine that anyone always agrees with Penn Jillette.

    Arguably, not even Penn Jillette.

  • AnonymousSam

    Too bad Penn also did a segment on how Walmart isn’t really that bad, and so what if they rely on sweatshops with child employees, they pay them a whole eight cents more than the competitor sweatshops.

  • Donalbain

     Their “debunking” of the risks of second hand tobacco smoke was also a joke.

  • mud man

    I think we might reflect here on how we present Christianity to others. Eg, attempting to cobble up some explanation of  how some personal tragedy was really a part of God’s loving plan for the Universe.

    It’s always good for personal enrichment when you can put the shoes on the opposite feet. 

  • Termudgeon

    I don’t believe in astrology or foretelling or psychics or reincarnation, but I’m not sure why it’s more acceptable to behave like what Fred has called “internet atheist” when the subject is these than when it is other belief systems.

  • cognitiveDissidence

     Because astrology and homepathy, unlike many theological claims, CAN be
    scientifically studied.    And they generally don’t fare well when they
    are.

    My brother and I have the same astrological sign, separated
    by four years.  As far as I can tell, the main thing we have in common
    is being carbon-based life-forms. 

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I don’t believe in astrology or foretelling or psychics or reincarnation, but I’m not sure why it’s more acceptable to behave like what Fred has called “internet atheist” when the subject is these than when it is other belief systems.

    Werd.  The above system seems at least somewhat akin to telling a Christian, “Yeah, I prayed for my grandmother’s cancer to be healed, and for my friend to find a job after he was laid off, and those things happened, thanks to my prayers!”

    “Wow!  Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord works in people’s lives?”

    “Hahahaha…PSYCH!  Those things never happened!  Your God clearly doesn’t care!”

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think we’re apples-and-orangesing. Like, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Friday horoscope for my birth month says “A quick glance at accounts shows you’re in great shape. Celebrate by treating yourself to something that isn’t tax deductible.” Which is bullshit and provably so, unless by ‘in great shape’ they mean there’s a few dollars in my checking that aren’t already earmarked for something. Gramma’s cancer remission, well, have fun proving whether that was deity-caused or not.
    (Had to go to Friday because today’s is plausible, Sunday’s is advice I ought to take, and Saturday’s kind of actually happened…)

  • vsm

    Your hypothetical prankster seems to have a weird idea of Christianity if they think a few cases of unfulfilled prayers would falsify or shake someone’s belief in the concept of God’s benevolence. Christians generally accept the idea that bad things happen and that prayers aren’t necessarily granted.

    However, certain forms of astrology do claim to be capable of making reliable predictions/assessments, which is why it’s possible and perfectly legitimate to devise and conduct experiments that would falsify them. The same applies to falsifiable claims made by Christians, e.g. the historicity of Genesis.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Does Fred think that his prank changed any believers’ mind on astrology?  Especially if/when they found out he was just fucking with them?

    Hell, I think all supernatural beliefs are incorrect.  But it’s always struck me as a bit short-sighted to say, in effect, that the idea of the position of stars determining our personalities and fates is oh-so-silly, while the idea of a guy walking on water and multiplying fish with his thoughts is not silly at all and, in fact, imparts important life lessons.

  • vsm

    He said he’d stopped doing it because it was mean, so presumably he realized it isn’t a very effective technique, at least when talking with a true believer. However, the experiment does reveal how astrology works, so sharing the anecdote is worthwhile. The same applies to spreading replies to common Creationist talking points. They won’t convince Ken Ham, but one hopes they might influence someone less mired in that particular belief system.

  • EllieMurasaki

    He said he’d stopped doing it because it was mean, so presumably he realized it isn’t a very effective technique, at least when talking with a true believer.

    ‘Mean’ is not synonymous with ‘ineffective’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     Well, does anyone really think that this sort of thing would work well on astrology devotees or anyone, really? Has anyone ever actually been successfully forced into abandoning a sincerely-held religious/political belief or lifestyle choice, simply because someone made fun of them once? It might happen, but it’s pretty rare and I get the impression that jokes like that are more for the gratification of the joker. Which is fine as far as it goes, but I don’t think it’s especially heroic or persuasive.

    (There’s the off-chance that there might be the person “on the fence” who is listening in and might be persuaded by that, but — again — I don’t think that that’s the main point or else we would just address that person directly).

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t recall saying that there was any chance that that tactic would be effective. What I recall saying is that realizing it’s mean is not the same thing as realizing it doesn’t work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     Ah, gotcha. I guess I just made that leap in my head. In my experience, being sneering or dismissive of someone’s sincerely-held beliefs (even if they are stupid or petty from your perspective) pretty much guarantees that they won’t listen to you or respect what you have to say. “Mean” is almost synonymous with “ineffective” because I can’t think of an experience in my life when someone has convinced me to change my mind about something important to me by being rude to me.

    (Fred also does similar articles about “right relationships” for evangelism, all of which seem to preclude teasing or nastiness as being a precursor to persuading someone about anything.)

    They’re also really good stories, and really good stories always have value. Lumping them together with astrology is… silly.

    Aren’t there a bunch of posts from earlier in the thread by people who found value in astrology, even though that they don’t claim that they literally have the power to predict the future with it? I feel like you could make the same defense of astrology as with religion, where even people who don’t believe that Christ literally multiplied loaves and fish could find some positive message in it.

  • vsm

    Indeed. I think there was a perfectly logical sequence that derived ineffective from mean, but it failed to appear on the screen.

  • Lunch Meat

    One difference may be that–at least in the post above–Fred isn’t going up to random people, asking them if they believe in astrology, and then doing the prank. It’s a response to people who ask him what his sign is–those to whom other people’s astrological sign is important enough that they ask everyone about it and try to interpret other’s lives according to their own belief system. If a Christian came up to you, asked about your religious beliefs, and then started analyzing your life, personality, and things that happen to you based on what they think about your beliefs, I think it would be perfectly appropriate to prank them like this.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    That’s the trouble with being an atheist–it’s hard to prank people, because when you get to the punchline, they can always say, “I always knew you atheists were a bunch of lying jerks!”

    Telling the truth tends to be more effective, anyway.

    In any event, my original point still stands–would Fred be as amenable to a follower of astrology saying:

    “Clearly, no two Christians have ever prayed for a cure for cancer, since Matthew 18:19 says that ‘if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that the ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.’

    So, don’t be mean.  But don’t give any churches any money.”

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    In any event, my original point still stands–would Fred be as amenable to a follower of astrology saying:”Clearly, no two Christians have ever prayed for a cure for cancer, since Matthew 18:19 says that ‘if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that the ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.’So, don’t be mean. But don’t give any churches any money.”

    Fred isn’t a Biblical literalist. 

    I am tired of people pretending other people believe things they do not believe. I am particularly tired of seeing this in atheists who like to say they are all about truth. How anyone can think they can clobber Fred at this point with any Biblical verses that are anything other than “love thy neighbor” and “give to the poor” is beyond me.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Fred doesn’t believe anything in the Bible other than “love thy neighbor” and “give to the poor”?  Um, okay.  I guess.

  • Beroli

     I would guess that Fred would be more than fine with, “Don’t give churches any money on the basis of expecting miracles as a result,” actually. Or, “Don’t give anyone money to intercede with God for you.” Or…I could keep going, but Fred can speak for himself, and does at length.

  • Joshua

    At the risk of stating the really bloody obvious to someone who has been around here for a while, Fred does indeed call out people from his own religious tradition that pull equivalent stunts on him. If he feels they are hucksters after your money, he says so, sometimes seriously, sometimes by making fun of them, always bluntly.

    Some people interested in astrology are not trying to cheat people out of their money, and some do not make disproven claims about it. Some of those have posted here. His comment about money is obviously not aimed at such people, that would make it as nonsensical as thinking his comments about the liar Tony Perkins as aimed at all Christians.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Astrology is disprovable. Easily. By laypeople. And it has been disproved many, many times.

    “Silliness” or otherwise says nothing about how correct an idea is. We can’t disprove that Jesus walked on water and multiplied fishes, any more than we can disprove that Krishna multiplied himself enough to sexually satisfy many servant girls at once. And, unlike astrology, the stories of Jesus and Krishna tell us some true and profound things that resonate throughout time and space. They’re also really good stories, and really good stories always have value. Lumping them together with astrology is… silly.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    How do you know that astrology doesn’t have “true and profound” things to say to believers?  Because horoscopes appear in newspapers next to crossword puzzles? 

    See, this is what I don’t get.  This whole, “MY beliefs are deep and meaningful and resonate across the space-time continuum…YOUR beliefs are goofy and silly and come from a cereal box.”  The attitude that defines holier-than-thou.  Weirds me right the fuck out when people start in on how much deeper and better and truer their religion is than all those other dumb belief systems.

  • GDwarf

     

    See, this is what I don’t get.  This whole, “MY beliefs are deep and
    meaningful and resonate across the space-time continuum…YOUR
    beliefs are goofy and silly and come from a cereal box.”

    It’s especially interesting with astrology, since it’s one of the oldest human beliefs and clearly involves something* that speaks to lots of people. Even in modern big cities, where stars are generally something you don’t see. What’s more, depending on the type of astrology you have plenty of ritual and tradition involved, with what are essentially rites and everything.

    You’d think that if anything qualified for belief-protection it’d be astrology. But I think the fact that it has become so much a…party game, really, has removed most of its mystical clout. It’s like seances, in a way. I suspect that if every newspaper didn’t have a random phrase generator spit out prophecies every day it’d be taken far more seriously.

    Which is also kinda weird, since many religions aspire to just that: Becoming everyday things, and it generally doesn’t seem to hurt them much. I wonder why the thing that may ultimately doom astrology does the opposite for so many beliefs.

    *I can totally understand looking up at the stars in awe when fire was the height of lighting technology. I can also totally see believing that they had weird and mystical properties, I mean, they cover the entire sky, it’s absolutely covered in them, and you can see each quite clearly…yet they cast almost no light. What’s more, they move overhead as the night goes on, and different ones appear and disappear in time with the seasons.

    That, more than anything else, probably drove early astrology: What stars you see depends on the tilt of the Earth, which means that the same stars will be in the same place every spring, summer, fall, and winter. Clearly nothing on Earth could move these heavenly things, so they must cause the seasons. If they can change the very weather, then it’s hardly absurd to think they can shape empires and lives.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    They’re also really good stories, and really good stories always have value. Lumping them together with astrology is… silly.

    That being said, there’s a difference between treating them as stories (albeit with a moral message, no less effective than secular variants like The Lord of the Flies), and treating them as though they were actual historical tales.

  • GDwarf

     

    “Wow!  Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord works in people’s lives?”

    “Hahahaha…PSYCH!  Those things never happened!  Your God clearly doesn’t care!”

    That’d be fair if someone was using the claim of divine healing to swindle people out of their money.

    The thing about TV psychics and their ilk is that they’re blatant scam artists who prey on the vulnerable. Most religions are, at least, not that blatant, if nothing else.

  • forego

    Fred, I’d love if you reviewed this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCLmRB-OpGE

    “The real star of bethlehem”

  • http://twitter.com/TaoChapter40 Ethan Johnson

    FWIW, I am the adult child of a retired professional astrologer. And not being a practitioner, I will only point out that astrology is only meant to be a tool, not a “belief system” as Fred very incorrectly called it. Even as my mother is bad about saying “oh so-and-so is an Aquarius and that means [whatever]” she also has the sense to temper such remarks with caveats about free will and that other factors will shape the person, not merely his or her “sign”.

    Also: “Sun-sign Astrologers”, as Fred is lampooning above, are similar to “basic functions mathematicians”. Incomplete knowledge of a subject does not refute the usefulness of that topic, but rather the utility of the “expert”.

  • Jim Roberts

    Regardless of whether it’s meant to be one or not, astrology is very much a belief system, or at least part of the belief system of a large number of people.

  • Sunny Day

    A tool for what?
     
    Amusement?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687121933 Carrie Looney

    As mentioned, Astrology is a tool, and as such, it can be judged on its own merits as a tool, and as a tool with any legitimate predictive power, it’s lousy.  :) 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Carl Sagan had a rather interesting segment on it in his Cosmos series. As I recall he took two newspapers from some date in 1979 and compared them and showed that the predictions were so general and not even consistent anyway there was no point to astrology.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    he took two newspapers from some date in 1979 and compared them and showed that the predictions were so general and not even consistent anyway there was no point to astrology

    Of course, using that methodology we could debunk quite a lot of other things as well, including most science. At some point it’s worth asking whether we’re just debunking newspaper reporting.

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    Of course, using that methodology we could debunk quite a lot of other things as well, including most science.

    When you can disprove germ theory or Newton’s laws of motion or general relativity using random newspaper columns, we’ll talk.  Until then, this statement remains absurd.

    At some point it’s worth asking whether we’re just debunking newspaper reporting.

    Since when were astrology columns “newspaper reporting?”

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     In fairness, newspaper horoscopes are to astrology as “Verse-a-Day” calendars are to Bible study.

    Whether you find astrology useful is up to you.  But assuming or pretending that the whole subject is adequately or accurately represented by newspaper horoscopes is a mistake.

  • Worthless Beast

    I’ve heard that people who are serious about it do charts, that the newspaper and magazine stuff, since it’s meant to apply to “the general public” that being accruate goes out the window.  I don’t think I’d ever have one – half out of skepticsm, half out of fear I’d get a chart like the guy in an anime I’ve seen a couple of epsidoes of whose full-done-up astrological chart including a reading of his name was “You will have a hard life and die alone.” (It was a dark comedy, so this was of course, played for laughs, along with his constant suicide attempts).

    I have been reading (out of curiosity) a couple of people in the Weird News section of Huffington Post who have predictions about the Presidential candidates based upon charting their personalities and planets out.  A lot of what I see isn’t anything other than what an observant non-astrologer could take from their personalities-as-seen-on-tv and a lot of it is post-game archair quarterbacking, but I’m hoping their predictions – however they concluded them, proove true because they seem to want Obama to win and so do I.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Personally, I’m only interested in natal charts, which focus on exploring a person’s psyche without making predictions.  I’m given to understand that when it comes to predictions, there are a number of different routes to go and may involve different types of charts.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > Since when were astrology columns “newspaper reporting?”
    Since never.

    Perhaps unrelatedly to your question, but related to what I said in the first place: if we apply the debunking methodology IN described (that is: take two newspapers, compare them, and show that the predictions are so general and not even consistent anyway
    there’s no point to it) to the contents of newspapers generally, I suspect we will find ourselves debunking all kinds of things, because the reporting of such things is frequently general and inconsistent.

    Astrology can be, and has been, debunked in all kinds of reliable ways. The fact that newspaper horoscopes contradict one another isn’t one of them.

    I prefer that my debunking techniques fail on stuff that’s actually true.

    > When you can disprove germ theory or Newton’s laws of motion or general relativity using random newspaper columns, we’ll talk

    I would not bet money that two randomly selected newspaper articles
    about general relativity over the last twenty years won’t contain
    general and inconsistent assertions about it.

    Which is precisely why I would not rely on that technique to debunk general relativity. (Again, I prefer that my debunking techniques fail on stuff that’s actually true.)
    Admittedly, with respect to germ theory or Newtonian mechanics I’d be more confident, because probably all science reporters share a grade-school education about that stuff and therefore believe consistent things. (Of course, that’s also why they rarely turn up in newspapers to begin with.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You do know Carl Sagan was comparing the astrology segments, right?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Yes, and I’m a little bewildered that you might think otherwise.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You clearly seemed to think I was talking about entire newspapers or was that jibber-jabber about science columnists supposed to just be airy fluff?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    OK, I’m done now. I said what I meant; I have no desire to further explain it, especially if you don’t consider me worth even being polite to.

  • Aaron Heiss

    Astrology is different from religion in that it makes specific predictions about observable phenomena. (Yes, religions do that too, but that is not their main or their only purpose.) It can be tested. It has never been shown to be any better than chance at such predictions, which is not surprising since nobody has ever proposed a believable mechanism by which it should work. 

  • PandaRosa

    Of course I always take into account the Year sign, as in Chinese astrology, that chart you see on the place mats in Chinese restaurants, the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, etc. Combine that with the Western months and you get 144 variations. Might make the horoscope section rather lengthy if you do it that way.
    FWIW I’m a Gemini, Year of the Pig. 
    Not that I believe.

  • Worthless Beast

    I’m a Cancer (ous) Goat.  I use that as an excuse for why I’m so neurotic.  No belief in it save for the sake of amusement.

    I have an online friend who says he plays Tarot : NOT the reading of Tarot cards for divination, but the actual game of Tarot, which is something from history that is little known.  He says that the cards didn’t get their “occult” connotations until later on, that they started out as prettified playing cards, like poker for rich people who could afford to have artists pretty up cards for them.

  • PandaRosa

    No wonder my Fundy high school said cards were evil :D

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    It’s true, Tarot is a card game (or a family of card games):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarot,_tarock_and_tarocchi_games

  • Matri

    Please don’t get a Royal Flush.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Of course I always take into account the Year sign, as in Chinese astrology, that chart you see on the place mats in Chinese restaurants, the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, etc. Combine that with the Western months and you get 144 variations. Might make the horoscope section rather lengthy if you do it that way.

    You want lengthy, you can stick to Western–just involve all the planets. I was on an epic astrology kick several years ago. Sun sign. Moon sign. Mercury is never more than one sign away from the sun, Venus never more than two. Mars can be anywhere. Everybody born in the same year has the same Jupiter sign (for given values of ‘year’). People born within a couple years of each other might have the same Saturn sign. Several years for Uranus. Decade and change for Neptune. Pluto signs change once a generation. The fact that Pluto is no longer considered a planet by astronomers does not bother astrologers overmuch because astrologers sometimes play with the four biggest asteroids, Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Juno, and the thing between Saturn and Uranus that’s labeled both a minor planet and a comet because it acts like both, Chiron. And the current configuration of the planets interacts with the configuration at one’s birth. It gets hella complicated. Still bullshit, of course, but all this was research for a Sailormoon fanfic that I’m not entirely sure I ever wrote, set in the Crystal Tokyo era when the human lifespan is a thousand years or more, so I could put characters’ birthdates whenever the hell I liked. It was fun.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     

    You want lengthy, you can stick to Western–just involve all the planets.

    Not bad, but what about artificial satellites? 

    If you were born with Telstar in the House of Virgo and Mir ascending, what does THAT mean?  :D

  • EllieMurasaki

    That the satellite engineers outsmarted themselves?

  • MaryKaye

    I read the column “Free Will Astrology” in _The Stranger_ every time I get my hands on a copy (two or three a month, I’d say).  But I don’t pay any particular attention to my own sign; I just read them all, and usually one of them will spark a bit of insight for me.

    I am not an astrologer myself, but I read Tarot, and my understanding of both is the same:  there isn’t any new information coming in from the stars/cards, but the symbol system functions as a tool to uncover information that is already present but not recognized.  The person who writes “Free Will Astrology” is really, really good at writing bits of text that jiggle out blocked-up information, at least for me.  (Though actually my own sign is one of my least favorite.)

    So there are some people for whom “Divination is valuable” and “Divination has zero objective predictive power” are mutually compatible.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    the symbol system functions as a tool to uncover information that is already present but not recognized

    (nods) Absolutely. I sometimes open dictionaries to random words as a divination technique in a similar spirit.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    In case you didn’t know, though given your fondness for dictionaries you probably did, that’s called bibliomancy.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     (nods) I did, but I appreciate being told anyway.

  • Mrs Grimble

     I have a friend who is a Tarot reader and he says the same about the
    cards – that they’re just a guide, and not anything magical.    And that is exactly how I feel about astrology – and I’ve been using it on and off for over 40 years.  I’m a long-time member of an astrology association, I’m on various astrology lists, I’ve tried being a professional astrologer, and I maintain an astrology website.
    But I’ve never felt it was anything other than a way of harnessing your own intuition; for example, when  lo0oking at someone’s chart and noting, say, natal Chiron conjuncting the Sun and transiting Neptune opposing the Moon, I start looking at the person’s long-term health issues.  “Health” of course covers a wide area; in exploring that with the person, I may be able to pinpoint issues – diet, drugs, work stress and so on,  that they need to deal with.
    And I don’t believe astrology can predict definite events.  Having done some research on predictions generally, I’ve found that astrology comes out no better at predictions  than any other divination system.
    My views aren’t  terribly popular amongst most astrologers. A lot of them really do treat it as a religion and they get ridiculously upset at  articles like this – just like fundamentalists of all stripes.

  • Donalbain

     But I’ve never felt it was anything other than a way of harnessing your
    own intuition; for example, when  lo0oking at someone’s chart and
    noting, say, natal Chiron conjuncting the Sun and transiting Neptune
    opposing the Moon, I start looking at the person’s long-term health
    issues.  “Health” of course covers a wide area; in exploring that with
    the person, I may be able to pinpoint issues – diet, drugs, work stress
    and so on,  that they need to deal with.

    What the flying fuck? You use guesswork and bollocks to give someone health advice? Jesus Fucking Christ…

  • Mrs Grimble

     Normally, I don’t respond to posts containing profanity.  But I have to reply to your idiotic and pea-brained allegation.
    NO – I do NOT pretend to be a doctor or health professional.  The advice I gave was along  the lines of “Maybe you ought to try cutting out gluten, but see a doctor first.”  No more than anybody would say in an everyday  conversation – surely you’ve have similar chats? If you had, would you call it “guesswork and bollocks”?
    In any case, as I stated, I am no longer a professional astrologer, so I don’t do consultations anyway.

    Sheesh – are you so offended by certain keywords/ideas, that   you  jump in on somebody’s comment and start ranting without actually thinking?

  • Donalbain

    Normally, I don’t respond to posts containing profanity.
     
    Fuck off then. You used a bullshit piece of bollocks to give medical advice to people. You did that to people who trusted you enough to give you details about themselves and engage in a ritual while you made up crap about what they should do. You are amongst the horrible, disgusting people who prey on the sick with the likes of homeopathy and quantum crystal healing. You disgust me.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     The “Free Will Astrology” is my second-favorite astrologer, since his advice is often good, or at least encouraging, no matter what sign you are.

    My favorite is whoever does the horoscopes for The Onion.  With theirs, I _hope_ they stay inaccurate.

  • http://twitter.com/HelenKistler Helen Kistler

    I found that the descriptions for my moon sign were more accurate than the descriptions for my sun sign. I do believe that the positions of the planets could have an affect on our biological functions, but I don’t believe that their influence is absolute.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    First thing I thought of when I read the title was a song, I’d like to share it but I’m not in the best place to listen to something to make sure it sounds right before linking, so I’ll just give the first three stanzas:

    Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
    So they say, their subsequent fall was inevitable.
    They never stood a chance; they were written that way –
    Innocent victims of their story.

    Like Romeo and Juliet,
    ‘Twas written in the stars before they even met
    That love and fate (and a touch of stupidity)
    Would rob them of their hope of living happily.

    The endings are often a little bit gory.
    I wonder why they didn’t just change their story.
    We’re told we have to do what we’re told, but surely
    Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.

    On the actual subject of astrology, the book on the subject that brought me closest to believing in it was a book about relationships between members of this sign or that sign.  The reason that it brought me close to believing wasn’t that the did a good job of describing the relationships given the correct information, it was that it did a bad job of describing the relationships given incorrect information.

    But it wasn’t exactly a decently worked out study because we (my sister and I) knew which ones were supposed to come out right and which ones were supposed to come out wrong.  Thus bias all around.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Yeah: see, this is pretty much exactly how I feel about Christianity.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    On the uses of astrology for those who don’t believe, my sister uses her daily horoscope to make the sorts of decisions that can’t really be rationally worked and instead need a random element to solve them.

    Her daily horoscope, for her, becomes a slightly more interesting version of flipping a coin to get yourself passed an impasse.

  • VMink

    Well, I’m a Gemini, so I’m not at all sure what’s going to hap–*WHZZZZZ*thunk!* Gnrk!

    … Sorry, Kentucky Fried Movie joke.  Film at Eleven.

  • D9000

    A friend of mine used to work at the local newspaper. They had an astrology column,  which was syndicated, and then one day the fee for it went up beyond reason. So my mate was told off to copy out the astrology columns for 1922 (or whenever) and recycle those. Turned out much cheaper. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    So my mate was told off to copy out the astrology columns for 1922 (or whenever) and recycle those.

    Incidentally, for the benefit of my fellow Americans, I recently read an exchange on a mailing list I’m in about the phrase “told off”, which none of the Americans got (myself included).  It means something like “assigned” or “designated for duty”.  Not at all what I’m used to associating with the phrase “tell off”.

  • P J Evans

     Having grown up reading British mystery novels, I’m more or less bilingual.

    (‘Tell off’ in this sense is something like ‘you, you and you [pointing and them] just volunteered for ‘.)

  • D9000

    Can be both meanings in UK English. So if somebody just says ‘I got told off’ you need some context. I think the original meaning of ‘tell off’ was ‘to read from a list’ from which ‘assign people to work’ follows fairly naturally. Not sure how the meaning ‘to admonish’ came to be, but perhaps in the military being ‘told off for duty’ was mostly a punishment, and by extension to be admonished, also a punishment, became conflated? Dunno.

  • GDwarf

    I, quite frankly, find Astrology to be a load of hokum.

    Now, it’s really old hokum, pretty much the oldest-known “science”, but that doesn’t make it any more true than augury or necromancy or whatever*.

    Which means I largely treat it as I do Christianity, Hinduism, etc.: I’ll think you’re a bit naff (I love that phrase) if you believe it, but so long as you don’t use it to justify harming me or others I’ve got no issue with it.

    What I don’t understand is why it’s so popular. I mean, the newspaper version is so watered-down and vague that it’s pointless, yet try to find a newspaper that doesn’t devote space to it. Meanwhile, the much more mystical and pseudo-mathematical versions are far more interesting to look at (rather like Tarot) while being even less accurate.

    If I claimed to be able to tell the future and was as horrible at it as every astrologer I’ve ever read, I’d be out of a job in days. Yet somehow they stay in business. I find it very confusing.

    *Speaking of, I’m debating starting a school of prediction known as “Oikomancy”**. It will be based on the error messages generated by Adobe products: If they demand you update them, then you should prepare for a change in your life today; If Flash player causes your computer to lock up, you should prepare for traffic jams; If Acrobat causes an illegal operation then the day will last 24 hours; etc. I anticipate a fairly high accuracy rate, and there’s no risk of ever running out of predictions, either.

    **Ancient Greek puns! Everyone loves ’em, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    If I claimed to be able to tell the future and was as horrible at it as every astrologer I’ve ever read, I’d be out of a job in days. Yet somehow they stay in business.

    Then you wouldn’t be out of a job!  Unless you quit, that is.

  • Sindigo

    I think my copy of Illustrator just agreed with the Mayans. Oh Wise One who speaks with the forked tongue of Adobe, should I prepare for Armageddon?

  • GDwarf

     

    I think my copy of Illustrator just agreed with the Mayans. Oh Wise One
    who speaks with the forked tongue of Adobe, should I prepare for
    Armageddon?

    Well, they did just release Acrobat XI, granting it the ability to better withstand internal catastrophes (Though did nothing to make such catastrophes less likely), so I’d prepare for something. :P

  • maggiekb

    I didn’t get the appeal of astrology and tarot until I had a friend who I found out was really into it. Talking to her, I realized that she used it basically as a form of therapy. You go in, somebody talks to you about symbolism and portents and then the two of you have a conversation about how those things could apply to your life and how you feel about that and how you might want to deal with it in a healthy way. 

    Her astrologer costs about the same as the therapist I have occasionally used. And we both come away feeling better and  having our issues worked through. So even though I still don’t understand why it makes more sense to her to deal with things that way, I get what she’s doing now. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    I didn’t get the appeal of astrology and tarot until I had a friend who I found out was really into it. Talking to her, I realized that she used it basically as a form of therapy. You go in, somebody talks to you about symbolism and portents and then the two of you have a conversation about how those things could apply to your life and how you feel about that and how you might want to deal with it in a healthy way.

    Yeah, that’s basically my purpose for tarot. Only I bought myself a deck and learntarot.com has the basics of interpretation online for free.

  • Joshua

    This sounds vaguely like Douglas Adams’ description of astrology in Mostly Harmless, which seems to be more sympathetic than you’d expect:

    “I know that Astrology isn’t a science,” said Gail [an astrologer].   Of course it isn’t. It’s just an arbitrary set of rules like, chess or tennis or-what’s that strange thing you British like to play?”  “Er, cricket?  Self-loathing?” said Tricia [a British person trained in astronomy]. “Parliamentary Democracy.  The rules just kind of got there. They don’t make any kind of sense except in terms of themselves.  But when you start to exercise those rules, all sorts of processes start to happen and you start to find out all sorts of stuff about people.  In Astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could just as well be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make.  It’s just a way of thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge.  The more rules, the tinier the rules, the more arbitrary the rule, the better.  It’s like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are.  It lets you see the words that were written on the piece of paper above it that’s now been taken away and hidden.  The graphite’s not important. It’s just the means of revealing their indentations.  So you see, Astrology’s nothing to do with Astronomy.  It’s to do with people thinking about people…”

  • Joshua

    And there go the paragraphs…

  • rizzo

    I don’t believe in astrology at all, but I’m a Sag and from what I’ve seen I do fit the description.  It makes me think that while stars and planets don’t do bupkis for your fortune, the time of the year you’re born does play at least a small role in your temperament as an adult.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    My dude’s a Sagittarius. Even with the Forer Effect in action (we can’t ever really shut it off), I’ve never been able to find any way whatsoever in which he is like what a Sagittarius is supposed to be like.

    Also, as a Libra, I’m supposed to be incredibly diplomatic and get along with everyone.

    So, bupkus.

  • AnonaMiss

    Also, as a Libra, I’m supposed to be incredibly diplomatic and get along with everyone.

    I hope you don’t mind that I snorted aloud at that.

    I have a similar relationship with my sign though: I’m a Leo. Supposedly that makes me appearance-conscious, gregarious, and always striving for leadership. In real life, let’s just say that I conform to most of the stereotypes associated with computer programmers.

  • P J Evans

    So, bupkus.

    One novel I read points out that due to precession, all the astrological signs are now a month off from what they should be.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Two, I thought. That’s what ‘Age of Aquarius’ means, that the vernal equinox coincides with the sun in Aquarius, and Aquarius is two signs off from Aries. Though I recall there being disagreement over whether we’re quite there yet.

  • P J Evans

     Couldn’t remember if it was one or two. Went with the safer number.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Besides the precession, there’s also Ophiuchus.

  • Mrs Grimble

     No, we’re now in the Age of Pisces; the Vernal Equinox sun currently rises in the Pisces constellation.  Some time  in the future, it will rise in the Aquarius constellation, but a constellation’s borders are so fuzzy that just about any date within the next five centuries  or so will do. 
    Or even more – the astrologer Nicolas Campion collected dozens of dates for the start of the Age of Aquarius, ranging from 1447 to 3621.

    It’s a fairly confused idea of Plato’s great Year, mixed in with the Theosophical version of the  Hindu Yuga concept.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Axial precession takes about twenty-six thousand years for a complete circuit, which means, assuming each zodiac sign is just about a twelfth of the ecliptic, the vernal equinox spends between 2100 and 2200 years in each sign. And I have heard, over and over and over again, that Jesus lived real early in the Age of Pisces. (Jesus fish. Aren’t we clever. Also spirituality and so forth.) Which means we’re about due for a change and Campion can’t count.

  • GDwarf

    half out of fear I’d get a chart like the guy in an anime I’ve seen a
    couple of epsidoes of whose full-done-up astrological chart including a
    reading of his name was “You will have a hard life and die alone.”

    Of course, if you combine his given and family names they spell “Despair”, so it seems likely that the stars probably do have it in for him. :P

  • Jim Roberts

    Darn it, all this mention of tarot has me trying to find my copy of Sting’s “Shape of My Heart.”

  • vsm

    I don’t believe in any kind of divination, but I have a certain fondness
    for useless systems of knowledge, so I like to read about them every
    now and then. I greatly enjoyed Rachel Pollack’s book about the Tarot,
    for instance. I’m also happy these systems exist
    because they offer material for quality Japanese urban fantasy. I still know all
    the astrological/nomical symbols for planets thanks to Sailor Moon.

    Incidentally, a friend of a friend who was into astrology once did a chart for me. Turns out I’m a terrible person and will play a part in an attempt to start a socialist one-world government.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    It’s called the Forer Effect.

    Astrology can be an amusing parlor game. I think it can also have value so long as one does not start believing in it. Here’s what I mean: you can look at the signs, and think about how your personality is different and how it’s similar. That’s also a good way to develop critical thinking skills, and to learn that just because people in authority and even society in general say something is true, that doesn’t make it so.

    However, for something occult that can be used as a personal exploration tool, I prefer Tarot cards. Again, it’s important to not start believing in it. But you can figure out lots of stuff, from practical to profound, by playing with them. Also they’re awfully pretty.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Also [Tarot cards are] awfully pretty.

    Thing I want from Santa: tarot that reflects the lesbian and/or bisexual experience, and tarot where the people depicted are not monochrome.

  • vsm

    tarot that reflects the lesbian and/or bisexual experience
    It would be interesting to see someone really work that out. There’s a good amount of gender essentialism and binarism in the system (emperor/empress; high priestess/hierophant), and I think it would be pretty boring to just replace them with butch/femme.

  • EllieMurasaki

    One of these days I am going to acquire a copy of the Gay Tarot and see what they did with it. But that is nowhere near the top of the priority list. Also if I attempt to design a tarot deck to suit my queer feminist sensibilities, it will end in tears. I cannot visual art.

  • vsm

    Looking at some reviews, it looks like the designers of the Gay Tarot renamed the female cards into the Intuitive and the Protector, which I suppose is fair enough. A feminist deck might want to deal with the binary oppositions head on, though.

    The last two Persona games dealt with them pretty well in my opinion. Many of the representatives of the gendered arcana were young people who did not for various reasons fit in the rigid gender roles imposed on them, many of whom were easy to read as higher than zero on the Kinsey scale. Their happy endings involved redefining (rather than abandoning) those roles into something more flexible.

  • PandaRosa

    This will satisfy neither urge, but they are jolly good fun, taken with a full box of salt: http://www.housewivestarot.com/
    If you’re coming from where I think you are, you might just laugh as much as you rage. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Blocked at work. I’ll look at it at home.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I don’t know of any Tarot that reflects lesbian/bisexual experience directly, but there are a lot of Tarots where the people aren’t even human. Like the cat tarots, of which there are more than one. There are also many Tarots in which the people have multiple skin colors. Like this one, “Tarot of the Cat People”: http://ravenmoonlight.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=2219

  • Mrs Grimble
  • EllieMurasaki

    If you read those descriptions, you’ll notice an emphasis on gay men. The only one that indicates that the deck depicts lesbians is the Cosmic Tribe deck, and that’s not exactly the main theme; we know this because it has three Lovers cards, one lesbian, one gay, one straight.

  • flat

    Fred once said that a prophecy is always conditional, which means it can be defied.

    And Astrology is the most vague conditional form of quessing the future there is.
    So I am not going to waste my time with it, I have more important things to do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.steele.315 Matthew Steele

    Generally, the Astrologists you read in the newspaper are either hacks, or trying to do their best with incredibly vague information, and feel like hacks. 

    The predictions you get based on one sign are incomplete pictures. It’s like trying to identify people only by eye color. There may be a bunch of people born in June, or even born on June 8th. But a proper astrologist takes into effect location and time of birth as well. Thus, I’m born June 8th, but I’m also born in a particular hospital, at around 6:30.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Rising sign, and what sign is in what house depending on time of year and day. I knew I’d forgotten something.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    It’s like trying to identify people only by eye color.

    And so-called “proper” astrology is like trying to pretend you can tell everything about a person by a combination of hair color and eye color.

    Except not really, because there are medical things that are a little bit linked to eye color. And you can know that if a person has blue eyes, they’re a little more likely to have light pink skin, and that has a host of social implications.

    Astrology is total nonsense. It’s been disproven again and again and again. Unlike the religious “the world is here, so someone must have created it,” it doesn’t even make sense. A bunch of balls of flame and gas and rock and whatnot billions of miles away direct our lives? So much so that I’m supposed to have more in common with some random person born in the same place as me on the same day than with the people I grew up with who were born somewhere and sometime else? Or with the people I’ve found in my life who have so much in common with me, like my dude, of a different time and place of birth, but the only person I’ve ever known who has almost precisely the exact same moral sense as I do? Or my parents?!

    Nonsense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    Trying to be funny mode activated: Would your SO happen to be named Lebowski?
    Trying to be funny mode deactivated.

    In all seriousness, that does seem like an unorthodox phrase. Is there any particular reason you call him your dude, rather than something else? I’m kinda curious.

  • reynard61

    I was born in the Year of the Ox. (1961) I’m also a Taurus. (At least under the “old” Zodiac*.) Does that me that I’m full of Bull?

    *Under the “new” Zodiac I’m an Aries. Does that make me horny?

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Speaking of predictions – whoever it was who mentioned a story they wrote some years back that was set in the then-future/current now and all the predictions were accurate except the $4.50/gallon gas?

    The state of California is not very happy with you.

  • Beroli

    Speaking
    of predictions – whoever it was who mentioned a story they wrote some
    years back that was set in the then-future/current now and all the
    predictions were accurate except the $4.50/gallon gas?

    The state of California is not very happy with you.

    Never mind the state of California, the next time I fill up my gas tank, I’m going to be seething in your general direction.

    Oh well, at least I have a hybrid.

     

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     

     
    Speaking of predictions – whoever it was who mentioned a story they wrote some years back that was set in the then-future/current now and all the predictions were accurate except the $4.50/gallon gas?

    The state of California is not very happy with you.
     

    Never mind the state of California, the next time I fill up my gas tank, I’m going to be seething in your general direction.

    Hey, it could be worse, they could’ve been as accurate as the Onion.  Amazing how many hits they got in one piece of alleged satire.

  • myeck waters

    My favorite moment in astrology history was when astronomers starting debating whether to demote Pluto from the ranks of planets. Some astrology believers complained the debate was taking too long, and they needed a decision so they could adjust their calculations if there was a change.
    Because the effect Pluto has on your life depends on whether or not scientists label it a “planet”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Hadn’t heard that. Doesn’t make sense under any framework, because some astrologers do factor in non-planet objects (Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, Juno, Chiron) even if we count the sun and moon as planets.

  • MaryKaye

    When I was studying with a group of hardcore Wiccans, we spent a lot of time looking at correspondences.  Directions corresponding to elements corresponding to archangels corresponding to times of day/month/year corresponding to deities corresponding to herbs etc.  The conclusion I came to is that for most people, there are a few sets of correspondences which  map onto something in the mind and are useful–they help organize existence and they can help inspire creative thought.  The rest are a parlor game of no particular use to that person.  You can sometimes make a particular correspondence meaningful by using it for a long time–if your rituals *always* have water in the West it will eventually feel as though it belongs there.  (Or not, if you do rituals in a location that has water in the East, like one of my favorite sites in Seattle.  The real water beat out the associational Water every time as far as I was concerned.)

    The astrology symbol set remains abstract and unhelpful to me, but I had a coven member who did find it useful.  This type of tool resists standardization because it has to hook into the quiddities of your own mental organization.  My mother read Tarot with a deck that means absolutely bupkis when I look at it–I can look up the cards one by one in a book but nothing coherent comes out.

    Given this, no matter how serious or otherwise an astrologer is, I disbelieve that *anything* useful could be put in a newspaper column, other than the free-association-fodder of “Free Will” and its ilk.  It’s like canned psychological advice.  I believe that there is real validity in psychology, but newspaper advice columns are generally useless.

  • Samantha C

    I don’t think I believe that things like astrology actually predict the future, but it sure is fun to pretend sometimes. I happen to identify strongly with my signs (Virgo in the Western, Snake in the Eastern), and I enjoy having something a little ‘special’ to mark out what part of the world I belong to.

    I approach my tarot cards in a similar way to my horoscopes, mostly as a focusing tool. When something is deliberately designed to apply to many, many different possible situations, I find it helpful to notice what my mind immediately goes to. It helps to calm me down when I can identify the things that are bothering me.

    So this is a case of something that can have value without having to believe it’s “real”

  • Keulan

    Sometimes I like to check the horoscopes section of my local newspaper. When I do, I like to read the horoscopes for every astrological sign and see how many are general enough to apply to me. I have yet to read a horoscope that was specific enough to apply only to people born at one particular time of the year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Obligatory Life of Brian quote:

    MANDY: So, you’re astrologers, are you? Well, what is he then?
    WISE MAN #2: Hmm?

    MANDY: What star sign is he?

    WISE MAN #2: Uh, Capricorn.

    MANDY: Uhh, Capricorn, eh? What are they like?

    WISE MAN #2: Ooh, but… he is the son of God, our Messiah.

    WISE MAN #1: King of the Jews.

    MANDY: And that’s Capricorn, is it?

    WISE MAN #2: Uh, no, no, no. That’s just him.

    MANDY: Ohh, I was going to say, ‘Otherwise, there’d be a lot
    of them.’

  • Donalbain

    I think people are confusing some categories here. Astrology is not like Christianity, Astrology is like creationism. It makes some claims about the universe that can be tested. Those claims can be tested. Those claims have been tested. Those claims are false. The questions of Christianity (as defined by the major creeds) cannot be tested and so cannot be shown to be false.

  • christopher_young

    Hmmph.

    I shall continue to rely on the Sortes Virgilianae for my predictive requirements.

  • Isabel C.

    My general feeling is that you shouldn’t take seriously anything that regularly appears in Cosmo/Glamour/etc. 

    Although it’s probably better to believe their astrology columns than their sex tips, on second thought. Less traumatizing to your partner, anyhow.

    I find some of the Libra descriptions to be an interesting match. Non-pop-culture astrology is one of those things where the prediction aspect doesn’t really call to me–or not enough to consult the guides regularly–but other things do, so maybe it works for some people in some way, as per various previously discussed reasons, and whatever.  No skin off my nose.  

  • LL

    Eh, I view belief in astrology as a handy IQ test.* If someone professes a sincere belief in it, I know not to listen to anything they say about anything else. I don’t try to talk them out of it, I just shake my head and move on. 

    * There is actually a pretty lengthy list of things I use in this manner. 

  • LoneWolf343

    I don’t know. Astrology isn’t really a religion, but a practice of some older religions. It would make as much sense to have a “Communion” channel, or a “Ramadan” channel?

    Actually, how about a Voodoo channel? I am being serious there, because Voodoo is actually a full religion (as full as an animistic polytheism could, but still full,) and it is practices in the Southern US.

  • dblinkhorn32

    It’s quite entertaining listening to the believers of one unsubstantiated belief system mock the believers of another unsubstantiated belief system. That’s the problem with “faith”, it justifies ANY belief, not just one.

  • Kaylya

    I’m always a fan of the chart about compatibility between signs OK Cupid generated with their online dating data – http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/how-races-and-religions-match-in-online-dating/  (spoiler: it’s *very* even).

    Time of birth does have some impact, although I don’t think it has anything to do with the positions of the planets, and more to do with timing of birth vs. arbitrary cutoff dates – for sports like Hockey where cutoffs are Dec 31st, there’s far more Jan-March birthdays in the pro levels than Oct-Dec, and kids born shortly after the school cutoff do a bit better than the ones just before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    I’ve never understood how religious people / people who believe in anything supernatural can claim that other beliefs are silly. They have exactly as much proof for their beliefs as you do for yours! When someone brings up their religion/beliefs in a nonconfrontational way, I think the best response is an “Oh, that’s nice.”

  • Sapphire

    I seriously need help in knowing the accurate answer. Please tell me that is it really necessary to break up just because signs don’t fit in love for example. I am a scorpio what if I fall in love with a gemini a sign which according to austrology don’t fit in love with scorpio, what will I do then

  • EllieMurasaki

    OKCupid (or some other dating site, but I think it was OKCupid) did a study of successful vs unsuccessful couples they matched up, broken down by star sign.

    All the possible combinations had, within two percentage points, the same success rate.

    Astrology is a fun toy, but ultimately it is just a toy.