Thursday, March 20, 2014

Astrology is a huge load of bullshit

      I always assumed that the only people who were actually into astrology were teenage girls reading through teenage girl magazines and old ladies with vastly too much time on my hands. Within the last couple of years I have had a number of friends who have gotten into astrology at a range of depths from the sort of easy confirmations like "of course X did Y, they are a Saggitarius" to making pretty big life decisions based on their or other's signs. I've never been very interested in astrology and I feel like it has only been withing the last four or five years that I have even heard people mention it seriously.
       I cannot fucking stand it.
       There have been a few times that friends have had long, one sided conversations with me about astrology. I usually just listened to them and nodded. As far as I know people are just making these sorts of statements up as they go along (things like 'first X did Y because mercury was in retrograde but then did Z because Jupiter was in the house of cancer) and these baldfaced proclamations meant absolutely nothing to me. The friendships meant more to me than stating my case and I figure there are plenty of times where I ramble on about topics that someone else finds totally boring and pointless. Once or twice I have tried to have a conversation about astrology but usually just end up giving a winding lecture on the basics of empirical thinking that confuse even me.
       I decided then to write this out, three points as to why I think astrology is a totally useless system that-in the end-probably does more harm than good. I'm trained as a scientist and will take a decidedly scientific tack. If this turns someone off I simply want to point to the observation that essentially every discovery that has occurred and every new understanding that has been reached withing the last two to three hundred years has been via the scientific method (and luck) and, when used appropriately the tenets of scientific thought are the single most useful way to understand the natural world of which we currently know.
      I am going to go from what I think are the least important to the most important reasons reasons astrology is flawed:

        There is no widely agreed upon method by which the movement of the plants influences human behavior. I'm unsure how this could be made any more simple. I have seen some mention of vibrations, while others stick to the nominally more believable phenomenon of 'long term cycles', but still there must be some steadfast and falsifiable way or reason as to why the planets interact with us on such an intimate level. I have seen evidence that certain biological patterns adhere to the cycles of the moon and I can take these as true, but beyond this any mechanism (this mechanism which would be central to astrology, I should think) is simply ignored or vaguely described.

       Astrology differs widely between cultures. While most people that I know now follow the standard twelve sign method of astrology throughout time there have been dozens of forms of astrology, most of them mutually exclusive in their methods, systems and findings. If astrology offered some sort of objective method of examining the world, or of gaining insight into human nature there would have to have been some similarities between the egyptian and the incan and the chinese and the modern systems. As far as I am aware the differences greatly outweigh the similaries.
 
      Most destructively: astrology causes us to make assumptions and judgements about ourselves and others which are unjustified. The majority of friends I have who adhere to astrology use it as a way to put people into categories. As a method to discern character traits and behaviors. This is, I think, no different than  making broad character judgments based off of skin color or religion or nationality. We are inborn with a tendency to make frameworks based off the information we have about all things, especially people. When these assumptions are confirmed (when we see a black person being inarticulate or a white person who is wealthy or a rude Israeli or a leo acting like a leo) we strengthen out belief in our system. When our assumptions are broken (we see a black person become president or a white person being inarticulate or a compassionate israeli or a leo acting like a Sagittarius) we ignore these behaviors or compartmentalize them as minor exclusions to the framework. Astrology is simply another form of this behavior and one with absolutely no basis in reality. It allows one to focus on the similarities (a very easy thing to do) and ignore the differences and complexities between people (a more difficult but vastly more accurate way of considering people). Not to mention that human personality is very dependent on context, surroundings and situation. Someone who is forceful in one situation may very well be timid in another, one relationship may work at one age while not at another. Astrology glosses over these key differences, attempting to make the world a more palatable and easy place to understand while simply providing facile and general observations.

      I'd love someone to refute these points.

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