Pharyngula

Astrology disproven!

It’s 2008 — I think astrology has been dead for a few centuries. But OK, it’s been shown to be worthless again. A large study of thousands of “time twins” — people who were born at the same time — has concluded that there are no correspondence between them.

Researchers looked at more than 100 different characteristics, including occupation, anxiety levels, marital status, aggressiveness, sociability, IQ levels and ability in art, sport, mathematics and reading – all of which astrologers claim can be gauged from birth charts.

The scientists failed to find any evidence of similarities between the “time twins”, however. They reported in the current issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies: “The test conditions could hardly have been more conducive to success . . . but the results are uniformly negative.”

Big surprise.

Don’t look for astrology to vanish, though. Here’s the real surprise in the story.

Some of the most popular figures in the field, such as Russell Grant, Mystic Meg and Shelley von Strunckel, can earn £600,000 or more a year.

A single profitable astrology website can be worth as much as £50 million.

When the Daily Mail discovered that its expert on the zodiac, Jonathan Cainer, was about to leave the newspaper in 1999, it reportedly offered him a £1 million salary and a £1 million bonus to stay. He still preferred the offer at the Daily Express: no salary but all the money from his telephone lines.

Obviously, I’m in the wrong business. Maybe I need to start inserting the occasional horoscope reading in my blog posts.

Pisces: You will be busy exchanging ions across your gill membranes today — watch out for predators, and trust your lateral line organs.

Comments

  1. #1 techskeptic
    April 24, 2008

    actually I find this to be the scary part:

    Astrology has been growing in popularity. Surveys suggest that a majority of people in Britain believe in it, compared with only 13 per cent 50 years ago.

    and worse

    A recent survey found that a third of science students subscribed to some aspects of astrology…

    So the US is going more and more religious and briton is going more and more woo-y (Not sure if that is the technical term or not).

    great.

  2. #2 Cuttlefish, OM
    April 24, 2008

    My astrology is diff’rent; my astrology is new,
    And for just a hundred dollars, I can share it all with you–
    Once you’ve paid me, here’s your lesson–it’s the only one I teach:
    All astrologers share just one sign–the money-sucking leech.

  3. #3 MikeD
    April 24, 2008

    Virgo
    Get over it. If you continue living up to your name, you’ll be a non-event. So get out there, start dating!

  4. #4 Matt
    April 24, 2008

    Americans have their creationism, us Brits have our astrology. Thankfully, none of the astrologers here want their rubbish taught in the classroom. They are just content in earning lots of money from newspapers. If only it could be the same across the pond.

  5. #5 me
    April 24, 2008

    If you want to see some major-league astrological woo, complete with huge dosages of post-hoc, check out:

    http://astrology.blog.co.uk/2007/08/05/mars_square_saturn~2758094

    Note to the woo-purveyors: Saturn (the automobile) was named after the saturn rocket, NOT Saturn the planet.

  6. #6 wazza
    April 24, 2008

    What’s the prediction for Cancer?

  7. #7 matt
    April 24, 2008

    great twist on the horoscope there, PZ

  8. #8 (((Billy)))
    April 24, 2008

    Well, they obviously didn’t account for the distances involved between the birth places of people born at the same moment. Obviously, the effect of planet hundreds of thousands of kilometres away can be affected by which room in the hospital in which the kid was born. Go back and recalculate accouting for the difference of ten or so metres and viola! Complete correspondence!

    What? The differences are still too big? Damn. Well, keep changin numbers until you have correspondence. Trust me. It works.

  9. #9 me
    April 24, 2008

    What’s the prediction for Cancer?

    You will be radiated out of existence.

  10. #10 Dana Hunter
    April 24, 2008

    LOL, PZ, you’ve found a new niche! That’s right up there with BBspot’s Geek Horoscopes. Awesome! When do Capricorns get theirs?

  11. #11 Gerardo Camilo
    April 24, 2008

    I go by the Mayan calendar, so no wonder that stuff doesn’t work for me.

  12. #12 Brandon P.
    April 24, 2008

    Taurus

    Your digestive system will grant you the ability to regurgitate chewed grass and reswallow it so that it will be broken down by special microbes.

  13. #13 Ben
    April 24, 2008

    ‘Roy Gillett, the president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, … accused Dr Dean of seeking to “discredit astrology”.’

    Surely not…

  14. #14 me
    April 24, 2008

    Taurus

    Your digestive system will grant you the ability to regurgitate chewed grass and reswallow it so that it will be broken down by special microbes.

    I always thought astrology was a bunch of bull…

  15. #15 Bruce
    April 24, 2008

    I think PZ’s expertise is probably limited to water signs.

  16. #16 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    From the article:

    “Surveys suggest that a majority of people in Britain believe in it, compared with only 13 per cent 50 years ago. The Association of Professional Astrologers claims that 80 per cent of Britons read star columns, and psychological studies have found that 60 per cent regularly read their horoscopes.”

    We can’t really just take the “statistics” here as being remotely reliable, because the phrase “surveys suggest” is never qualified by an explanation of who conducted the surveys and how they did so. Also, although I’m sure that many people in Britain read their horoscopes and other astrological tripe – as is also currently quite fashionable in the US – the numbers provided were cited by the biased “Association of Professional Astrologers.” (…which, incidentally, is a title that strikes me as being quite humorous)

    “A recent survey found that a third of science students subscribed to some aspects of astrology, while some supposedly hard-headed businessmen now support a thriving market in “financial astrology” – paying for predictions of trends such as the rise and fall of the stock market. Astrology supplements have been known to increase newspaper circulation figures and papers are prepared to pay huge sums to the most popular stargazers.”

    Again, the ‘survey’ that cited such a high student preference for astrology is cited without also citing its source, so I don’t know exactly how much to trust that assertion. But even if that survey is fairly accurate, it specifically states that that third of students subscribed to “some aspects of astrology,” which could just as well mean that they read their horoscope and view it as prescient – hardly indicative of an astrological world-view or preference of such a view over a scientific one.

    And as for the businessmen who spend fortunes trying to find an edge or shortcut in order to make their fortunes (sarcasm definitely intended), I don’t think we’ll ever see an end to the stupidity of such business types, but I attribute such action to unadulterated lust for wealth rather than belief in the efficacy of the measure. I’ve often heard someone say something to the effect that they don’t believe it, but “hey, you never know…it could work…”

  17. #17 Deepsix
    April 24, 2008

    “Obviously, I’m in the wrong business. Maybe I need to start inserting the occasional horoscope reading in my blog posts.”

    Or become a TV evangelist. That’s where the real money is. But, then, you’d have to lose your morals.

  18. #18 me
    April 24, 2008

    A recent survey found that …

    Ah, a Recent survey. As in one conducted by a guy named Bob Recent.

  19. #19 Pablo
    April 24, 2008

    Virgo
    Get over it. If you continue living up to your name, you’ll be a non-event. So get out there, start dating!

    I have nothing to add; this just deserves to be repeated. Kudos to MikeD.

  20. #20 amph
    April 24, 2008

    Astrology disproven!

    In other news, white storks do not bring babies.

  21. #21 me
    April 24, 2008

    In other news, white storks do not bring babies.

    But what about pink storks?

  22. #22 Josh
    April 24, 2008
    Taurus
    Your digestive system will grant you the ability to regurgitate chewed grass and reswallow it so that it will be broken down by special microbes.

    I always thought astrology was a bunch of bull…

    Gah! Astrology pun… before breakfast… day is ruined! Ruined! [fade out a la Wicked Witch of the West's "meting!... melting!...]

  23. #23 Ted D
    April 24, 2008

    At the end of last year I wrote a series of hor(r)o(r)scopes on my blog, most of them including predictions of a zombie pandemic. The number of visitors shot up substantially, and I doubt it was my charming wit that drew them. Rather depressingly a substantial number of my visitors are still people searching for horoscopes.
    Humans. Sometimes they make me want to cry.

  24. #24 Silmarillion
    April 24, 2008

    My favourite quote was this one:

    The findings caused alarm and anger in astrological circles yesterday. Roy Gillett, the president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, said the study’s findings should be treated “with extreme caution” and accused Dr Dean of seeking to “discredit astrology”.

    Ah yeah… ya think?!

  25. #25 Emmet Caulfield
    April 24, 2008

    What’s the prediction for Cancer?

    Surely you mean prognosis :o)

  26. #26 Epikt
    April 24, 2008

    An acquaintance was deeply into astrology, and she used to pester me to allow her to do my horoscope. She claimed that real astrology (not the stuff in the newspapers, for which she had great contempt) was a real science that made demonstrably correct predictions. Finally, to shut her up, I agreed to let her do my chart, and gave her all the information she asked for.

    A couple days later, she showed me the results. It really was uncanny; she had absolutely nailed many of my characteristics. Admittedly, it was just anecdotal, but it was quite convincing.

    Except for one unfortunate fact. I lied. Every bit of information I gave her–date of birth, time of birth, all of it–was bogus. When I asked her how she came up with such a convincing description of me, based on false data, she tried tap-dancing and equivocating, but really had no answer. Still, it all worked out for the best, because eventually she got surly and quit talking to me for a couple months.

  27. #27 ajay
    April 24, 2008

    But… Pisces is a paraphyletic zodiacal sign! As a strict orthodox cladist I am offended. I want more taxonomically rigorous zodiacal signs.

    Acanthostega: Prepare for a big change in your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone, and remember to exploit the heavily-vascularised inner surface of your buccal cavity.

  28. #28 DaveX
    April 24, 2008

    Is the actual report/study available somewhere online? Sounds like just the sort of thing I’d enjoy reading.

  29. #29 Cheezits
    April 24, 2008

    The scientists failed to find any evidence of similarities between the “time twins”, however.

    Geminis already knew that.

  30. #30 MikeD
    April 24, 2008

    Cancer
    Your suspicions are correct; no one likes you. Your greed and divisiveness will ultimately lead to doom for all involved.

    Drugs will seek to distupt your DNA synthesis and mitosis. Avoid focused radiation streams.

  31. #31 Carlie
    April 24, 2008

    I believe that Weird Al had the best horoscope prediction ever in one of his songs: “The stars predict tomorrow you’ll wake up, do a bunch of stuff, and then go back to sleep.”

  32. #32 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    Humans. Sometimes they make me want to cry.
    Posted by: Ted D | April 24, 2008 10:13 AM

    …indeed they often do the same for me, Ted. In those instances, I just go on youtube and look for the ones that make me fall out of my chair laughing.

    We’re quite a diverse species, aren’t we? :D

  33. #33 pzph
    April 24, 2008

    Wait, you mean they allowed research into this? I thought we didn’t allow research into things like astrology and ID. Weird.

    And this seemed appropriate:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIVeyTG9KB0

  34. #34 A Lurker
    April 24, 2008

    No one at Science Blogs seems to have noticed yet that the Florida Senate has passed the creationist bill. Hopefully the House will expel it.

  35. #35 Glen Davidson
    April 24, 2008

    Apparently astrology still pays a lot more than ID does.

    There’s not much doubt that ID pays better than most science does, however, so long as you’re at the top. Which is impressive when you’re doing essentially nothing.

    It’s capitalism, actually–give them what they want. They want magic, so they’re buying magic.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  36. #36 A Gemini
    April 24, 2008

    Speaking as a Gemini, I can assure you that I am exactly like myself, who was born at the exact same instant as I was myself. So there! The debunking, debunked!

  37. #37 lytefoot
    April 24, 2008

    I must admit, I adore occultism of all kinds, and astrology is one of my favorites because, when you do it right, there’s so much math involved. I don’t BELIEVE in any of hit, but learning the content of the systems is a lot of fun.

    Honestly, following astrology isn’t any more destructive than professional sports, and less of a financial drain on a free society as well.

    Believing in it is unfortunate, but often harmless: most people who say they ‘believe in’ astrology don’t do so to a disabling extent. For instance, I’ve rarely heard of a parent letting their child die because his horoscope said that he was in for good health.

    All things considered, the thing that irks me most is that people don’t bother to learn to do this stuff on their own. If it were motivating people to learn trigonometry and astronomy, I would wholeheartedly endorse astrology as a hobby.

  38. #38 AJ Milne
    April 24, 2008

    If I ever were to hack a newspaper’s DTP system, get to put in my own copy in those columns, I think I’d go with the generally ominous and paranoia-inducing. Just for the laffs.

    Gemini: Mars’ dominant position through this month suggests now would be a good time to update your life insurance policy. For the duration, avoid Aries, Taurus, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces and, for that matter, other Gemini, as well as those suspicious types who insist when you ask that they don’t even know their sign. Large moving vehicles, falling pianos, rogue government agencies, and runaway elevators all figure prominently. Also: your neighbour isn’t who he says he is.

  39. #39 lytefoot
    April 24, 2008

    And if you’re a Gemini, like me, well, you just never know what to expect**thunk**

    (Fifteen points for catching this one.)

  40. #40 Scrofulum
    April 24, 2008

    I’m deeply sceptical. Typical Pisces.

  41. #41 Ian
    April 24, 2008

    astrology works for me, I cast horoscopes and get plenty of people telling me how accurate I am.
    The problem is I do it as part of Living History events, using star charts from the 1640s. In fact, if things get busy, I just make stuff up because it’s quicker.
    People still tell me I’ve got it right, even when I remind tell them that I’m making it up. I think it’s a bit like religion, a lot of people want to feel that there is a guiding force in charge of their lives.
    On the other hand, maybe I’m really gifted, anyone want to sign me up for a newspaper? I’d charge a lot less than a million to write a bit of fiction each day.

  42. #42 Moggie
    April 24, 2008

    So, presumably belief in astrology will now plummet, and astrologers will have to get honest jobs…

    Well, no. That story appears to be from August 2003. Sadly, it seems to have had no effect on the popularity of this scam.

  43. #43 DwarfPygmy
    April 24, 2008

    Does anyone have a short horoscope for PYGMIES + DWARFS?

  44. #44 John H
    April 24, 2008

    Erm, I’m as happy as anyone to read stories debunking astrology, but that “news” story is dated 17 August 2003.

    Though perhaps that’s just the date on which astrologers predicted the study’s results, and the actual study only got reported today. :-)

  45. #45 Ken Cope
    April 24, 2008

    You are my sun sign
    My natal sun sign
    Your Moon in Pisces
    Is trine my Mars
    With Pluto Rising
    It’s not surprising
    It’s not surprising
    It’s in your stars.

    –Dr. Sun Sign (Phil Proctor)

    Your Horoscope: Neptune, Pluto and Goofy have moved into your last house, leaving no room for you.

  46. #46 PatrickHenry
    April 24, 2008

    I knew I’d read an interesting blog today. My horoscope said so. This “time twins” test is a good approach. The previous tests I’ve heard about involve “occupation twins,” such as men who re-enlist in the Marine Corps, professional musicians in symphony orchestras, etc. Their birth-dates are, of course, distributed all over the calendar.

  47. #47 Leart
    April 24, 2008

    That is exactly the kind of talk you’d expect from someone of your astrological sign.

    Furthermore, don’t the scientist know that every time they get involved they invariably affect the results? Of course this was a false negative. Just ask all the people for whom astrology works.

    Disclaimer: The above is meant to be humorous.

    PS: PZ should start his own religion, and I want to be a High Priest.

  48. #48 Lowell
    April 24, 2008

    lytefoot:

    And if you’re a Gemini, like me, well, you just never know what to expect**thunk**

    (Fifteen points for catching this one.)

    Nice. I believe the answer is Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kentucky_Fried_Movie

    What did I win??

  49. #49 me
    April 24, 2008

    I want to be a High Priest.

    First, you’ll have to obtain some really good drugs…

  50. #50 dennis
    April 24, 2008

    Listen–strange people answering phones distributing astrological readings is no basis for a system of belief. Supreme prognosticative power derives from plane wave solutions of Schrodinger’s time dependent equation with non-cyclical boundary conditions, not from some farcical telephonic ceremony. You can’t expect to wield supreme prognosticative power just ’cause some dial-a-tart made a reading for you! I mean, if I went around sayin’ I would have a good day just because some deluded bint had read my chart me they’d put me away!

  51. #51 Bryson Brown
    April 24, 2008

    I am shocked, truly shocked at this ridiculously inappropriate appeal to empirical evidence– the imperialist designs of your scientism are plain to see here, P.Z. Astrology is not about anything as low and grubby as actually predicting something observable about the world– it’s about much higher things, truths about our lives too deep for your shallow mind. That, and a good living parasitizing people desperate to know if they’ll ever be rich or find a hot partner (or just eager to fantasize about their prospects).

  52. #52 Joe
    April 24, 2008

    I work for a very popular – top 10 – British magazine; we recently got rid of our resident astrologer after he submitted a column for the week of 9-15 February that suggested various signs could expect romantic gestures from their partners in the coming week. Another horoscope for the same week suggested that if readers were having bother with a school essay or project, “the internet may have the answers you seek”. My problem with all this is, of course, that we replaced him with another fraud.

  53. #53 phantomreader42
    April 24, 2008

    Scorpio: You’re a toxic little prick, so keep a low profile. You’re safer in the boot than under it.

    Aquarius: Stop carrying water for other people and think for yourself for a change!

  54. #54 MH
    April 24, 2008

    “Surveys suggest that a majority of people in Britain believe in it, compared with only 13 per cent 50 years ago. The Association of Professional Astrologers claims that 80 per cent of Britons read star columns, and psychological studies have found that 60 per cent regularly read their horoscopes.”

    So the APA is claiming that every adult in the UK reads star columns? Yeah, right.

    (admittedly, I do like The Onions’ horoscopes)

  55. #55 Jit
    April 24, 2008

    The sidebar of the same newspaper that ran the story has a link to their horoscope section.

  56. #56 me
    April 24, 2008

    he submitted a column for the week of 9-15 February that suggested various signs could expect romantic gestures from their partners in the coming week

    And I’ll bet he was right, too.

    See??? It does work after all.

    I think I’ll try.

    Tomorrow will be Friday for all Geminis.

    We’ll see if I’m right.

  57. #57 Quaeror
    April 24, 2008

    Wow, astrology is bullshit, and dangerous bullshit at that when used by charlatans. Yet another thing the Catholic Church has been saying for centuries is finally ‘discovered’ by scientists. Imagine that…

  58. #58 Carlie
    April 24, 2008

    ENSIWeb has a nice lesson plan wherein you give each student a personalized astrology-based personality description, have them rate how well it applies to them, then reveal that they all got identical descriptions. It’s kind of fun to do.

  59. #59 NC Paul
    April 24, 2008

    The only horoscopes I read are the ones in The Onion. They’re scarily prescient:

    “Cancer June 22 – July 22

    Thanks to Pavlovian conditioning and a rather unexpected string of neighborhood accidents, you’ll soon salivate every time an ice-cream truck runs over a puppy.”

    http://www.theonion.com/content/horoscope/apr-22-2008

  60. #60 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 24, 2008

    ‘Roy Gillett, the president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, … accused Dr Dean of seeking to “discredit astrology”.’

    Dr Dean is a scientist. He did not seek. He found.

    Large moving vehicles, falling pianos, rogue government agencies, and runaway elevators all figure prominently.

    Runaway elevators? Those that shoot through the roof? :-D

  61. #61 Jams
    April 24, 2008

    @Epikt RE: giving a false birth date and location but still getting great results!

    I’m embarrassed to admit I know a fair bit about astrology. My only defense is that its relationship with various cultures is pretty interesting. Anyway, the phenomenon you’re describing is pretty common, and here’s why:

    Every astrological chart (a diagram relating the position of heavenly bodies at a specific time and location – often one’s birth but not necessarily) contains a massive number of relationships between symbols with very flexible and very abstract meanings. There’s enough variety that you can read just about anything from every chart. The difference is emphasis, which is provided almost completely by the astrologer, aka. the person analyzing the chart. The best astrological readings are done, not surprisingly, by people who know you best, or by people that are just really good at judging what people are like. Of course, all the usual techniques employed by psychics, mind-readers, and suggesters of various sorts are well applied.

    If one is generous:
    One can think of astrology as a layman’s version of advice giving, where the advice-giver can transfer responsibility for the advice from themselves to the stars. This frees the advice-getter from feeling judged or picked-on, and opens them up to what can sometimes be pretty good advice.

    If one isn’t so generous:
    Astrology is just another avenue to manipulate wishful thinkers.

    I sort-of lean toward the later. But I’m just like that.

  62. #62 Tim
    April 24, 2008

    That was massively confirmed for me years ago when I found I shared a birthday with Mel Gibson.

  63. #63 makita
    April 24, 2008

    Since my astrological sign is Pisces (I think, let me double-check… yeah it is), I’ll pay extra close attention today to see if your predictions are accurate. I’m holding you to it, PZ!

  64. #64 Atheistthinker
    April 24, 2008

    Honestly, following astrology isn’t any more destructive than professional sports, and less of a financial drain on a free society as well.
    Believing in it is unfortunate, but often harmless: most people who say they ‘believe in’ astrology don’t do so to a disabling extent.

    Some people, however, do base their love lives and even finances on horoscopes. This is where it starts to get silly and possibly dangerous. Also, the horoscopes in newspapers are vacuous and presumptive. They assume that you are middle-class, married, have children and do an office job. True for some people [maybe even most of those who believe in astrology!] but certainly not for all.

  65. #65 allkom
    April 24, 2008

    As a father of twin girls born 2 min. apart I kindly ask you PZ to cast a “scientific” horoscope able to take in account this slight difference, since other astrologers have been unable up to now to explain the big difference in behavior and day to day fortunes in their lives. ;)

  66. #66 Katrina
    April 24, 2008

    My twins were born one minute apart, from precisely the same location. They are as opposite in looks, taste and personality as is possible for siblings to be.

    As a souvenir, I had their natal charts done – to put in their baby books – and, wouldn’t you know it: they’re supposed to be exactly the same.

    Right.

    Apparently, the only way there would be any difference at all in their charts would be if they had been born more than 4 minutes apart. I don’t think that even three extra minutes would take into account THEIR personality differences.

  67. #67 Ted H.
    April 24, 2008

    I see someone else has commented on the Weird Al Horoscopes but I have to add my favorite:
    Libra: A big promotion is just around the corner for someone much more talented than you.

  68. #68 Kevin Anthoney
    April 24, 2008

    I swear, I once read a horoscope which said:

    As a Libran, you are so gullible and trusting that you could easily be taken in by a mystic or a scam artist. Ring my Starline to find out more.

    At least they know their audience!

  69. #69 Paul Burnett
    April 24, 2008

    PZ wrote “A large study of thousands of “time twins”…has concluded that there are no correspondence between them.”

    Shouldn’t be “there are no correspondence between they”?

    (PZ’s horoscope: “You will make a grammatical error today.”)

  70. #70 Elyse
    April 24, 2008

    Professor PZ! Your horoscopes are adorable!

    <3

  71. #71 HP
    April 24, 2008

    I generally form an intense dislike of anyone who shares my birthday. However, this is probably a false correlation, because I form an intense dislike of almost everybody.

    Leo
    This is a good day for taking it easy. Prospects favor a long nap in the sun or under a shady tree. Someone you are close to may bring a long-awaited gift — enjoy it while you can!

  72. #72 parseval
    April 24, 2008

    You’ve all probably seen this before, but it never gets old.

    http://www.astrologicalmagazine.com/

  73. #73 BAllanJ
    April 24, 2008

    As someone who was born almost at the same moment as that recorded for Michael Jackson, I can’t tell you how comforted I am by this research…or would be if I wasn’t a Virgo. You see, Virgos are too logical to believe in astrology. :-)

  74. #74 MarkW
    April 24, 2008

    Quaeror @ #57:

    Wow, astrology is bullshit, and dangerous bullshit at that when used by charlatans. Yet another thing the Catholic Church has been saying for centuries is finally ‘discovered’ by scientists. Imagine that…

    Of course the Catholic Church condemns astrology; they don’t want any competition for the minds of the credulous.

  75. #75 Kitty
    April 24, 2008

    Many years ago an old friend came back to visit Wales from his new home on the west coast of America with a beautiful young wife and new baby. She was having a hard time with culture shock as she’d never been away from home before – or so we thought.
    After a few days I managed to get her to talk to me. Her eyes filled with tears as she explained that her astrologer had given her a full reading for her entire visit but it wasn’t until she got here she realised they had forgotten about the time difference and she didn’t know what to do.
    Bless!

  76. #76 ddr
    April 24, 2008

    my lateral line organs told me to stay home from work today and just catch up on reading pharyngula. So that is what I did.

  77. #77 Screechy Monkey
    April 24, 2008

    Forget astrology, PZ. If you want to make some real money, the Templeton Foundation has a check with your name on it.

  78. #78 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 24, 2008

    Wow, astrology is bullshit, and dangerous bullshit at that when used by charlatans. Yet another thing the Catholic Church has been saying for centuries is finally ‘discovered’ by scientists. Imagine that…

    This, Quaeror, is called “wanking”. Yes, all the way back to the Old Testament, astrology/soothsaying is strongly discouraged — because it is (or once was) a religious activity associated with different gods who used to be imagined (and, I hear, are still imagined by an amazing number of Americans) to be really existing demons, whom to worship was imagined to be not merely a waste of time, but positively dangerous. Alternatively, one could be more cynical and repeat comment 74. Quaere, Quaeror! Quaere!

  79. #79 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 24, 2008

    Never once did the Church say that astrology/soothsaying/magic simply does not work, that it is useless rather than actively evil. That idea seems to have come up no sooner than medieval rabbinic commentary.

  80. #80 ThirdMonkey
    April 24, 2008

    I always trust my lateral line organs. They’re what have kept me alive this long.

  81. #81 Abie
    April 24, 2008

    In Adams’ immortal words :

    “I know that astrology isn’t a science,’ said Gail. “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 play?’

    “Er, cricket? Self-loathing?”

    “Parliamentary democracy. The rules just kind of got there. They don’t make any kind of sense except in terms of themselves. (…) In astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make. (…) The more rules, the tinier the rules, the more arbitrary they are, the better. So you see, astrology’s nothing to do with astronomy. It’s just to do with people thinking about people.

    In Mostly Harmless

  82. #82 Kitty
    April 24, 2008

    @#78

    “(and, I hear, are still imagined by an amazing number of Americans) to be really existing demons, whom to worship was imagined to be not merely a waste of time, but positively dangerous.”

    You mean Buffy was a documentary?

  83. #83 Don
    April 24, 2008

    I always liked Keplers remark,

    “Astrolgy is Astronomy’s daughter, and in order to feed her intelligent mother, she plays whore and sells herself to whoever wants and can afford to pay”.

    Probably true at the time, not so much now.

  84. #84 jim
    April 24, 2008

    “You are very fat and stupid and persistently wear a ridiculous hat which you should be ashamed of.”

  85. #85 Konrad Talmont-Kaminski
    April 24, 2008

    I’m a Capricorn and therefore far too rational to believe in silly horoscopes. Those ditzy Virgos, on the other hand…

  86. #86 mikmik
    April 24, 2008

    Now I know why psychics don’t worry about choosing the winning lottery numbers for themselves – they are moonlighting as astrologers and already hit the big time.

  87. #87 Julie Stahlhut
    April 24, 2008

    Virgo
    Get over it. If you continue living up to your name, you’ll be a non-event. So get out there, start dating!

    I think that my dating would make my husband even crabbier than if he were being menaced by a cephalopod!

  88. #88 Julia
    April 24, 2008

    I always liked Douglas Adams’ take on it, from Mostly Harmless:

    “I know that astrology isn’t a science,’ said Gail. “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 play?’

    “Er, cricket? Self-loathing?”

    “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 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 they are, 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 just to do with people thinking about people. “

  89. #89 Joe
    April 24, 2008

    I swear, I once read a horoscope which said:
    As a Libran, you are so gullible and trusting that you could easily be taken in by a mystic or a scam artist. Ring my Starline to find out more.

    The British TV critic Charlie Brooker once dedicated part of his show to British TV psychics; he rang various cable TV psychic channels and asked “Can you help me be less gullible?” He also memorably compared parts of The Baby Whisperer to Blue Velvet

  90. #90 K
    April 24, 2008

    1 word: “Ophiuchus”

    If astronomy is so true, how come the months no longer line up with the supposedly corresponding sign? How come it’s so bad, they had to take 1 out? 1 so famous that our doctors still use the symbol?

  91. #91 Phoca
    April 24, 2008

    Brilliant horoscopes! Nothing works quite like those to liven up my day.

    Capricorn

    Apical meristems will continue to dominate your thoughts. Ignore distractions as you focus on the goal: motion through your stomachs. While lactation may prove the key to success, the highly prized intellectual fodder of your cecal product may prove too alluring for gullible hominids to resist.

  92. #92 beagledad
    April 24, 2008

    Scoffers, take another look! The astrology guy “accused Dr Dean of seeking to ‘discredit astrology’”. The whole study must be wrong if they wanted to discredit astrology, right? After all, what kind of person would want to do such a thing?

  93. #93 Gav
    April 24, 2008

    See also

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7351199.stm

    Consumer protection regs are due to be debated in Commons on 6 May.Anyone care to predict the outcome?

  94. #94 misterbowen
    April 24, 2008

    Taurus: Contemplate domestic turmoil.
    Aquarius: Abandon hope for future plans.

    ahh, TMBG…

  95. #95 Brownian, OM
    April 24, 2008

    Yet another thing the Catholic Church has been saying for centuries is finally ‘discovered’ by scientists. Imagine that…

    Just like the heliocentric solar system?

    Man, even when I was a Christian, I’d be right on occasion. How is it that Quaeror so successfully and without fail manages to avoid the ‘Being Correct Trap’?

  96. #96 ZorkFox
    April 24, 2008

    I’m definitely in the wrong business. If only I didn’t HATE astrology with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, I’d be tempted to exploit these poor fools.

  97. #97 aiabx
    April 24, 2008

    If astrology doesn’t work, why are there PLANETS and MOONS?

  98. #98 kat
    April 24, 2008

    I really wish I could get my hands on the original paper at the very least, or on the data set they used ideally. So many studies have come out seeking to “discredit” astrology using this same birth cohort – people born in the UK in early March of 1958 – and they all come up with the same result, that people are different! well, DUH! We’re all unique and beautiful snowflakes. And I’m willing to bet that they didn’t control for environmental or genetic variation in the study (though I’m not sure how you would do that).

    I’m not sure how you can make any sweeping conclusions that “ALL ASTROLOGY IS BUNK” by observing one cohort of Pisceans (who happen to have Jupiter in Scorpio, Saturn in Saggitarius, and Pluto in Virgo, etc).

    I generally agree with your views on religion and science, PZ, but your constant equation of astrologers with creationists is unfounded and inaccurate. Astrologers (well, those who aren’t complete liars, and yes, many are – 90% of everything is crap) do occasionally make observations and compare them with current or historical astronomical observations and a vast body of recorded knowledge; consequently, astrological knowledge is not static, like biblical knowledge is. Astrology views the world as a highly complex, eternally changing phenomenon, yet it seeks to find patterns within the complexity and correlate them with external variables. They’re not variables that can be experimentally manipulated in a laboratory, but to equate astrology with creationism is to completely miss the point.

    And maybe I’m just a gullible charlatan, but I see the patterns in my friends and acquaintances, and especially in myself and my family. Mom’s got Cancer rising – and she’s very easily insulted and influenced by emotions rather than by logic. I’ve got Taurus rising, and I tend to be quite inert and stubborn, but once I get going on something I’m likely to keep plugging away until I’m done. If I’d been born 3 hours later, would I be more of a chatty, go-getting, energetic Gemini? Who knows, but I know I don’t fit the description of a Gemini rising, nor of an Aries rising. I know they’re generalizations, and many of the descriptions can apply to anyone, but there are internally consistent patterns to natal astrology, and each and every study that has come out “debunking” astrology has had some deep, serious flaws in data collection and analysis. Any scientist such as yourself should be able to critically analyze these studies instead of just accepting their conclusions because they support your world-view. (Isn’t that what a creationist would do, anyway?)

    That said, I’d never undertake such a study myself, because I’m not a sociologist and I think humans are way, way too messy and complicated to be understood. But is it really that far-fetched that the time of year, phase of the moon, and time of day that we come into the world could have an effect on our personality, on the essence of our being? We don’t live in a gravitational vacuum, we are residents of our solar system. Of course, we’re also products of our genetic and environmental heritage, which together undoubtably affect us much more than the sun, moon, and other planets… it’s fuzzy, it’s probably unquantifiable, and it’s certainly not explainable by current science, but given the fact that the major gap in our understanding of the universe is the unification of gravity and quantum theory, i.e. how gravitational fields affect subatomic particles, is it really so unbelievable that these things might affect us in at least a subtle way?

  99. #99 Nemo
    April 24, 2008

    Yes. Yes, it is.

  100. #100 davidstvz
    April 24, 2008

    I play drums in a rock band and the guitarist I play with, though a brilliant musician (been playing piano since the age of 5 to give you an idea), is very poorly educated. Just the other day he was talking about astrology and asked me my sign. I said I think it’s Aries. And he said “no way dude, if you were Aries we wouldn’t get along at all, but we work together great!” Sure enough, I am Aries and after confirming that I told him “I don’t believe in that shit” (and for good measure, after several more drinks later in the night, I reminded him I don’t believe God either).

  101. #101 me
    April 24, 2008

    But is it really that far-fetched that the time of year, phase of the moon, and time of day that we come into the world could have an effect on our personality, on the essence of our being?

    Ok, I’m convinced.

  102. #102 Glen Davidson
    April 24, 2008

    If astrology doesn’t work, why are there PLANETS and MOONS?

    Yeah, and “dwarf planets” plus giant planets.

    Damn atheists.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  103. #103 Eliot
    April 24, 2008

    Ha! I love the horoscope… I will have to share it with my fellow fish-studiers.

  104. #104 kat
    April 24, 2008

    Thanks for the knee-jerk reactions. I generally avoid these comment threads as a rule, because it’s mostly just PZ acolytes and their creationist fodder. But my point is, I think that as scientists, it is our responsibility to be critical thinkers and to analyze any study that comes out in the literature, and assess its strengths and weaknesses. Which can’t be done unless you have the primary paper, which doesn’t seem to be available.

    Plus, doesn’t “Journal of Consciousness Studies” sound like kind of a bogus journal, anyway?

  105. #105 lylebot
    April 24, 2008

    As scientists, we don’t have time to critically analyze every single study that comes out. There are thousands every year. When one appears that disproves something that we all already know is false, there’s not much reason to give it a second thought. We have more important things to do.

  106. #106 MandyDax
    April 24, 2008

    When my coworkers or anyone is reading their horoscope out of the newspaper, and they ask me what my sign is, my standard response, much like a couple of respondents above: “I’m a Scorpio, but we don’t believe in astrology.”

    Then again (from “Existential Blues”):

    Some girl with psychic powers, she said “T-bone, what’s your sign?”
    I blink and answer “Neon,” I thought I’d blow her mind.

    Scorpio

    You will hurt someone close to you today when you sting them. Avis is in the fifth cave, so beware death from above.

    Taurus

    Expect a terrorist attack today by dwarves and gnomes (they might be pygmies; it’s hard to tell) upon your new home where the roads cross. If you are careful, you will not be attacked, but the people you work for will be killed… a lot.

  107. #107 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    Plus, doesn’t “Journal of Consciousness Studies” sound like kind of a bogus journal, anyway?

    Posted by: kat | April 24, 2008 5:04 PM

    Not in the least. I think you’re referring to consciousness – in this sense – in a different connotation that the one used in scientific publications of the sort you mentioned. Consciousness is not an innately unscientific concept – it is actually quite the opposite.

    If you feel like checking out some good, scientific treatments and discussions on consciousness, how it came about, and the future of its study in science, check these books out:

    I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter

    Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett

    The Mind’s I by Hofstadter and Dennett

    They are really good, scientific, and quite insightful texts that deal with the most abstract of our human traits, and do so in a way that is understandable to most.

  108. #108 kat
    April 24, 2008

    I guess I just assume that if my institution doesn’t have a subscription to it, that it’s probably not a high-impact journal (though admittedly, there are other glaring omissions in our institution… PNYAS and Nature Methods come to mind).

    Still, I want to read the original paper! The telegraph has hardly impressed me in the past with their discerning science journalism.

  109. #109 cath
    April 24, 2008

    I’m late to the party, but congratulations on your new series of horoscopes. I literally LOLed. Especially at Gemini.

  110. #110 Julie Stahlhut
    April 24, 2008

    Leo: A younger man may not have your best interests at heart, so it’s a good day to stay close to family. Be supportive of the female members of your community; their workplace success gives you a great opportunity to add some quality protein to your diet. Hyenas may be annoying, but stand your ground until you get the last laugh.

  111. #111 Stopped Clock
    April 24, 2008

    Wow, astrology is bullshit, and dangerous bullshit at that when used by charlatans. Yet another thing the Catholic Church has been saying for centuries is finally ‘discovered’ by scientists. Imagine that…

    See! I’m telling you the correct time! I’ve been trying to tell you for the past eleven hours and fifty-nine minutes, but would you listen? Noooooooo…..
    Mark my words, this won’t be the last time you have to admit I’m right about what time it is.;

  112. #112 antaresrichard
    April 24, 2008

    Well my twin’s from Venus and I’m from Mars… I wonder if the findings pertain to us?

    -Manuel Antares Richard Sanchez-

  113. #113 Bride of Shrek
    April 25, 2008

    I had a friend in high school whose father worked in the sports desk of the local paper. Not being a busy publication the staff were required to multi-task. His second job was to do the horoscopes. To aid this he used to buy in ( from America- where else?) a huge bag of small pieces of paper all with different predictions on them. The firm that sold them guaranteed no two were the same and all he did each day was fish into the bag, pull one out and paste it under a star sign. Despite me telling pretty much everybody I’ve ever met in my life that story I’m amazed that how much people still believe the shite.

  114. #114 Andreas Kyriacou
    April 25, 2008

    Yes, the article is available online, has been for the past four years. Surely you noticed the devastating effect it had on the quack industry…

  115. #115 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    See! I’m telling you the correct time! I’ve been trying to tell you for the past eleven hours and fifty-nine minutes, but would you listen? Noooooooo…..
    Mark my words, this won’t be the last time you have to admit I’m right about what time it is.;

    LOL

  116. #116 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    btw, speaking of the science of astronomy, instead of the freakshow that is astrology, NASA just posted a bunch of new pics from Hubble today:

    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2008/16/image/a/format/xlarge_web/

  117. #117 Skeptico
    April 26, 2008

    You do realize this newspaper article is five years old? I wrote about this study (and many others) over three years ago (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to Dean’s study).

  118. #118 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    But is it really that far-fetched that the time of year, phase of the moon, and time of day that we come into the world could have an effect on our personality, on the essence of our being? – kat

    Time of year could plausibly have some indirect effect I’d say, particularly in pre-industrial societies, where quantity, quality and type of food available to the mother during various stages of pregnancy and nursing would differ considerably. This could affect brain development, or cause differential mortality among genotypes. The effect would be expected to vary across societies and social classes. Phase of the moon and time of day are much less plausible, but not totally impossible: a burst of hormones and other neurologically active chemicals will presumably be getting to the foetus as birth approaches, and in the first breastfeed, and its makeup might be affected by these factors. But astrology seems to be based entirely on sympathetic magic, not empirical studies, and there’s no such thing as “the essence of our being”.

  119. #119 venus in furs
    May 9, 2008

    In response to comment #26 by Epikt:

    I don’t normally go around calling people out in random comment threads around the internet. I just happened to read through these comments the other day and your comment got seared into the back of my mind, so I had to come back here and share my thoughts…

    One thought that kept coming to mind was what kind of creep would actually treat an acquaintance in such a way? And then see fit to brag about it on the internet with such insufferable smugness? Someone you know offers to read your chart, and so you waste their time and attempt to humiliate them by giving intentionally bogus information?

    That’s not clever. At best it’s deceptive and rude.

  120. #120 Ichthyic
    May 9, 2008

    Someone you know offers to read your chart, and so you waste their time and attempt to humiliate them by giving intentionally bogus information?

    how is it wasting their time to give them hard evidence that their methodology is at best driven by self-projection?

    frankly, if I for some odd reason was into superstitious nonsense, I would be quite thankful if a friend of mine managed to construct such a good exposure of it.

    be doing me a great favor.

    And then see fit to brag about it on the internet with such insufferable smugness?

    and that’s entirely projection on your part. for some reason, I missed the “insufferable smugness” you seem to see.

    but then, I’m guessing you will view this response as “insufferably smug”.