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The unparalleled nonsense of astrology

By in Opinions


ISHMAEL N. DARO
Web Editor

    One recent Friday, I checked my horoscope to read that I should probably stay home and avoid people for a while.

    “Spend some time alone today and get your thoughts in order,” advised Sally Brompton in the Globe and Mail. “There may be lots of interesting distractions around you but none of them are worth your time and effort.”

    Being a diligent journalist, I decided to check another source. I went next to the National Post where astrologer Georgia Nicols wrote, “Expect to meet new people today. New ideas and new ways of doing things will appeal to you.”

    What a quandary, I thought to myself. Here were two trained astrologers writing horoscopes in the nation’s leading newspapers with almost exactly the opposite advice for me. The Toronto Star’s resident stargazer Jacqueline Bigar was no help either; she simply suggested that my imagination knew no limits and the night was about “making the most of the moment.”

    I was determined to get to the bottom of the matter, which is, like, such a Scorpio thing to do. According to Astrology.com, Scorpios are “intuitive, probing and very focused on knowing who’s who and what’s what.” Of course, there is a host of character traits that don’t match my personality at all but who am I to question the heavens? After all, Scorpio is ruled by Mars and Pluto — and that means something, presumably.

    But what if I’m not a Scorpio at all? When the ancient Babylonians, and later the Greeks, devised what we still recognize today as the 12-sign zodiac, the position of the sun in relation to the constellations was different from where they currently stand. An updated list of horoscope signs actually marks me as a Libra!

   Of course, reading the forecasts for Libras on that same Friday gave me several new predictions, many of them either contradicting each other directly or so vague as to be meaningless. Saying that “surprise company might drop by” is essentially the same as “a surprise meteor might demolish your home.” How exactly is it of any value?

   That respectable outlets like the Globe and Mail regularly run horoscopes is disturbing enough — but the worst part of astrology may be the number of people who actually believe the movement of the planets affects their lives directly and not for any immediate reasons apart from the fact that they were born at a specific time and assigned an arbitrary symbol that hasn’t even been accurate for most of the last two millennia. In fact, people born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17 should actually have the astrological sign of Ophiuchus, which you won’t even find in the newspaper.

    According to a 2005 Gallup poll, one in four Canadians believes the position of stars and planets can affect people’s lives. Belief is particularly strong among women, 33 per cent of whom believe in astrology’s power while only 17 per cent of men do. This is an alarming state of affairs.

   Superstition is nothing new. We’ve all partaken in self-delusion by wearing a lucky shirt to an exam or knocking on wood to avoid misfortune. Many of these superstitions are culturally ingrained or come from minor rituals we set up for ourselves.

    But there is a difference between such silly things and the pervasive stupidity of astrology. Astrology represents humanity’s worst impulse to believe in ridiculous premises without evidence and to convince ourselves that within the endless chaos and beauty of the universe, some larger forces are directly affecting our lives.

   It may be a harmless distraction for many but others plan their futures and even seek out partners based on whether the sun is rising in the House of Jupiter or some other such nonsense. In some parts of the world, belief in astrology is taken even more seriously.

In Sri Lanka, for example, many marriages are decided by the compatibility of different star signs, never mind whether the bride and groom actually get along or not. Even Ronald Reagan, that paragon of sanity and reason, was known for organizing his presidential schedule based on his astrologer’s advice so as to best take advantage of the stars’ alignment.

    In the end, your horoscope is no more credible a glimpse into the future than the tea leaves in your cup or the entrails of the last animal you sacrificed to your Babylonian God. They all require a fantastical imagination and a heavy dose of stupidity.

The only smart ones are the frauds, hacks and charlatans who profit from our gullibility.

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Your “real” astrological sign:

As the Earth moves around the sun, it “wobbles” on its axis. This wobble, called precession, causes the sun to be found in different constellations over time. See below to find out what constellation the sun was in when you were born, your “real” astrological sun sign.

Sagittarius: Dec 18 to Jan 19
Capricorn: Jan 20 to Feb 15
Aquarius: Feb 16 to Mar 11
Pisces: Mar 12 to Apr 18
Aries: Apr 19 to May 13
Taurus: May 14 to Jun 20
Gemini: Jun 21 to Jul 20
Cancer: Jul 21 to Aug 10
Leo: Aug 11 to Sep 15
Virgo: Sep 16 to Oct 30
Libra: Oct 31 to Nov 22
Scorpio: Nov 23 to Nov 29
Ophiuchus: Nov 30 to Dec 17

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image: Danielle Siemens

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