One thing I find myself getting into arguments about pretty regularly with other people is over the validity of astrology. Personally, I find it to be completely wrong on so many levels, and I dislike getting pigeonholed because I’m a Pisces, or my Jupiter is in the 10th house, blahblahblah. I’ve always found people like James Randi to be right on the money about the many fallacies of astrology (among other things). What I’m trying to find is any scientific research that has been done on people who have been born close to each other… on the same day, in the same city or hospital. For example, have there been studies of 2 adults who were born the same time, day, town etc., comparing the 2 individuals as they are as adults, directly testing the validity of astrology?
I don’t think any self respecting scientist would waste their time on this utter nonsense.
I don’t have my copy of Martin Gardner’s Science: Good, Bad and Bogus (which I believe had several articles on astrology) anymore, but I remember its bibliography was pretty well-stocked with references to academic studies and peer-reviewed journals. That might be a good place to look. If nothing else the book itself is a good read.
I have a book citing a study in which scientists measured the length of a marriage, looked up the dates of birth of the spouses, and correlated those to the astrological predictions like “Pisces and Scorpio are a match made in heaven” or “Aries male and Leo female: ill-starred”.
It turned out that, statistically speaking, some matches ARE better then others. Some of these results were as predicted by astrology, and some were not, and some contradicted astrologic assumptions.
When an astrology type asks me about my sign, I always lie and say I’m (for example) a Libra.
Then, the lamed-brained astro-boy or -girl will inevitably say something like “I knew it! It’s because you’re so empathetic” (or some other trait believed to be associated with Libras).
Then I tell him/her that I lied and that I’m really a Cancer.
The really lame ones will then blurt out “I knew it” – and repeat some lame “fact” associated with Cancers that I supposedly have.
Then, since I’m not really a Cancer or a Libra, I get to ask this person why he/she was so sure twice in a row … but wrong … and what that says about the “science” of astrology.
I like to get into arguments.
The Bad Astronomy website has a very extensive debunking of astrology, it’s on the front page at http://www.badastronomy.com
A story told by mathematician & author Raymond Smullyan:
At a cocktail party, the conversation has turned to Astrology. A woman asks: “Mr. Smullyan, do you believe in Astrology?”
He answers (a bit sorrowfully): “No. You see, I’m a Leo, and Leos never believe in Astrology.”
One of the benchmark studies on astrology was Shawn Carlson, “A Double-blind Test of Astrology,” Nature, Vol. 318, p. 419, 1985. It is often cited because it is a well-designed experiment using a reasonably large sample that was published in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal.
28 astrologers were given the California Personality Inventory results for 3 people. They were also given the birth dates, times and locations of those three people, but, of course, in random order. The astrologers approved the protocol ahead of time, and predicted that they could correctly match the CPI result to the birth information 50% of the time. In fact, they were right 34% of the time (1/3 being what you would expect from random chance.)
This isn’t the sort of study you were looking for, but the sort of test you describe would be very difficult to conduct. First of all, you would need to do it with many pairs of people. Just one pair could have certain eerie similarities, or they might be very different, but it wouldn’t really prove anything either way. Second, you would need to establish what sorts of similarities you were looking for: career choice, life events, health, personality? Some of these things would be a matter of public record, but for others you would have to actually track down these people, convince them to take part in the study, and interview or test them.
But assuming you could do that, one of the most important things to do when testing astrology is to be sure to test for what the astrologers themselves believe. Do astrologers actually believe that two people born at the same time or in the same city will have similar lives or similar personalities? If not, you’d just be testing a strawman.
The best tests of astrology are designed with the assistance of astrologers. A good protocol is one where the astrologers are confident that the results will be significantly better than one would expect from chance. Strangely, they’re always wrong.
Two people born in the same day and location share more than astrological coincidence - they will likely grow up in similar neighborhoods and have parents with jobs in the same socioeconomic class.
In order to directly test astrology, you would probably need to find separated twins (who share the same genes and astrological identifiers but different environments).
You mean Geminis?
Well there’s this bizarre search engine-like thing. Of course since we’re talking about faith and not science any astrology true believer will poo-poo this sort of comparison because of geography, or even in the case of twins by the time discrepancy between births.
You could ask them: “You assume I’m [fill in trait here] because I’m a [fill in astrological sign here]. How is that different from assuming I’m [fill in negative stereotype here] because I’m [fill in race/ethnicity/sex/sexual orientation/whatever]?”
One cannot ‘test’ the validity of astrology, for the simple reason that the tenets of astrology are stated - if they are stated at all - in such a way that they cannot be falsified. If you know anything about the work of Karl Popper, you will be able to relate to this immediately. If not, then let me suggest looking up a little bit about him and his work, because it’s interesting and directly relevant to this position you find yourself in with the astrologically credulous. In essence, Popper’s point was that for a hypothesis to have any meaning in scientific terms, it must be falsifiable, ie it must be possible to design a test that would demonstrate, through empirical scientific investigation, that the hypothesis is false.
Statements of belief are constructed in such a way that they cannot be falsified. For example, in the Judeo-Christian belief system, the term ‘God’ is defined in such a way that one could never devise any practical test that would determine his existence or not, ie the ‘properties’ of the ‘God’ entity are cited in such a way that his presence or existence cannot be anything except a matter of faith ( = the decision to believe something when there’s no evidence to believe it) and inner, personal revelation.
The concept of inner, personal revelation is not in itself either asbsurd or wrong. However, it is of no use as evidence as far as anyone but that one individual is concerned, it is non-falsifiable, and we know from any number of cases that it is prone to the phenomena of self-deception and self-delusion. This is demonstrated by the fact that two individuals can both claim knowledge of ‘truth’ through inner, personal revelation when it is plain their beliefs are mutually contradictory ie it is impossible for both claims to be correct, and (as a corollary) there is no reason to suppose that even one of them is.
I am not saying this to attack anyone’s religious beliefs, but just to illustrate in a convenient way the notion of a non-falsifiable hypothesis. The tenets of astrology are similarly non-falsifiable, and hence come down to the equivalent of ‘faith’. There is no evidence (in the scientific and evidentiary sense) that it works, but people are free to believe it if they wish.
There is only study, or series of studies, which approach scientific respectability as regards astrology. This is the research conducted by a French husband and wife team of scientists called Gaughelin. They believed they had discovered a statistically significant correlation between some aspects of astrological lore (such as the position of Mars in the natal chart) and pre-eminence in certain fields (such as sports and athletics). For this reason, astrological enthusiasts often cite the Gaughelin research and act as cheerleaders for it.
There are at least three problems with this. The first is that the Gaughelins rejected 95% of astrological lore as being rubbish, and were particularly emphatic in their writings about the utter meaninglessness of all sun sign astrology (although one has to be careful because what they wrote in some of their earlier work contradicts what they wrote later, so different commentators can cite different passages to suit their purpose). So believers in astrology have to decide: do they back Gaughelin or not?
The second is that their statistical work has been heavily criticised over the years by various skeptical authorities, and it is claimed that these ‘significant correlations’ are in fact the result of either error or of intentional selection by the researcher - after all, you and I might have different views about what constitutes an ‘eminent’ athelete. Andwhen you can pick and choose who counts as ‘eminent’, you can skew the results any way you want.
The third is that the Gaughelins, of course, wrote their books in French. Outside of France, most of the people you are going to debate this issue with have either not read the Gaughelin research at all, or have only read a translation. And as we all know, even the act of translation can create plenty of scope for shift in meaning and diverse interpretation.
The onus is not on you to prove that astrology doesn’t work. The onus is on those who support astrology to prove that it does. They have not been able to do so thus far, but of course they may find a way to do so in future. Let’s wait and see. Until then, there is no reason at all to believe that astrology is anything but out-moded junk thinking for people who don’t want to use the minds they have been given to think for themselves about the people they meet and their own direction in life.
One or two posters here have also raised the issue of latent discrimination, which I do think is a point worth bringing up in discussion with the astrologically credulous. I’m sure any woman would, in this day and age, be angry and offended to be told she wasn’t suitable for a given job purely because she was a woman. How much more offensive, and absurd, to be denied a job or a promotion based on one’s ‘star sign’, and yet it does happen. There are employers who place sufficient faith in astrology to actually discriminate ( = pick and choose) on the basis of star sign or astrological profile. So ask believers if they are in favour of discrimination that is not based on talent, experience and ability. It’s a thorny one for them to deal with!
I once read an interesting piece that suggested that the origins of astrology may have had a tiny kernel of reasonability connected to them, in this sense: in certain regions, people born at certain times of the year were developing, in utero, at times that particular crops were available to the mother. This, in turn - in this speculation, at least - led to tendencies of mothers to eat certain foods and inadvertently influence their child’s prenatal development, maybe even leading to a generalizablity of personality and behavioral traits that occur in folks born at certain times of the year. It’s a stretch, I readily admit, but it may explain - if it’s correct - how some astrological beliefs came into being. At the same time, it’s simply a sad state of affairs that people in a country with one of the allegedly best educational systems in the world (please don’t hijack this part) can be filled with so many horoscope readers and believers. We in a mess o trouble, Catfish.
Well, anecdotally, I used to work with a guy who was born two days before me. We are nothing, yet nothing, alike. I’d be rather offended if you suggested we were. Now, an astrologist would tell you that’s because sun signs aren’t precise enough blah blah blah.
On the issue of the parenthetical remark here, it’s my own impression from reading Gauquelin (in translation) that he tended to become more “liberal” as the debate progressed, in the sense that the later writings were more willing to assume that traditional astrology had been onto something. He still didn’t necessarily assume that their methods worked, suggesting instead that they’d preserved echos of an ancient, more accurate craft that had recognised his proposed correlations. My tentative interpretation was that this shift was a psychological reaction to being so isolated in the technical debate - an olive branch to the traditionalists who, while dissenting from much of his detailed argument for precisely the reason you give, had broadly aligned themselves on his side.
Just curious, ian, whether that accorded with your impression?
Well, two days can make a big difference. You’d probably have Mercury, the Moon, Venus, and possibly Mars in different signs (with different aspects) and of course, unless you had the same birth hour, you’d likely have diferent ascendants (rising signs).
This stuff can get pretty complex, and even I only grasp some of it.
Dale, dabbler in both astronoimy and astrology
Not to me!
We had a person at my university who was into astrology; every time someone new submitted a requisition, he’d ask for your name and birthday. People always complained that he was a jerk. However, I found it strange that he was never rude or condescending to me. When I learned of the astrology connection, I realized why.
I’m a Leo Dragon. (August 1976)
Show some respect to your astrological superiors!
Wow. Even you? I’m impressed.
If CC is impressed, I must say I’m dumbfounded. The great Dr. Rieux? I just refuse to believe it.
What a Scorpio thing to do.