bunch of BS or any science behind?
Photography by: Karsten Winegeart
Your horoscope today
“You will experience an extremely embarrassing event that will chase your lover into the arms of a distant cousin!”
If this was your horoscope today, it should be described as a horrorscope! Have you ever encountered one like that? Thought not. According to the American Federation of Astrologers, 70 million Americans read their horoscope daily and the numbers are growing. Whether you’re one of the faithful followers, only read your horoscope at the odd occasion or are completely indifferent to the topic; it’s safe to say you’re aware of the universal rule that applies. The unspoken fact that it’s always good news!
So, is it possible? Horoscopes give subtle warnings, but why is it always wonderfully positive like that?
The question on many of our lips is whether there is any science to astrology? Is it fact or is Harry Potter casting a fictitious spell on the world? Most scientists will argue that the movement of the stars, planets, sun and the earth cannot possibly determine your fate. In the 1980’s, sociologist Shawn Carlson from the University of California disproved the notion that your personality can be linked to the day in which you were born. Astrologers were tasked with assigning personalities to individuals and they were given no knowledge of the date of birth of the subjects in the trial. They failed dismally. Furthermore, 2000 years after the original Zodiac signs discovered, the heavenly bodies have shifted in the sky and aligned with the coinciding month no more. This is called ‘procession’ and it’s due to the earth moving on its own axis over time. Another word for the phenomenon is ‘wobble’ and it can be argued that Pisces have now become Aries and Leo has lost its roar, thus ‘wobbling’ the theory off its perch and destroying the credibility of Astrology for good. Or has it?
Studying the heavenly bodies and their relation to earth is as old as time itself. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Babylonians and the Chinese all partook in the activity. At that time, Astrology and Astronomy where basically viewed as one and the same thing. Sir Isaac Newton spoiled the party when he upgraded the sky to a calculator by mathematizing the motion of the planets. Just as Albert Einstein split the atom, Newton split Astronomy and Astrology and it’s now widely accepted in scientific circles that Astronomy is science and Astrology not.
Yet, with all this overwhelming evidence to the contrary, one third of Americans still believe that Astrology is ‘scientific.’ Can we therefore conclude that people are irrational? Probably! Should we admit that there’s more at play here than just science? Certainly!
The day before Sir Winston Churchill retired he made two famous comments causing many a puzzled philosopher to scratch their heads. He is quoted as saying that; “Man is spirit” and “Never be separated from the Americans.” The second comment makes sense; the first one doesn’t since Churchill was often described as ‘an optimistic agnostic.’ Why would an agnostic’s parting words to his followers point them to a vague and undefined feature of human nature? Probably for the same reason that people believe in astrology and horoscopes!
During the darkest days of the Second World War, Winston Churchill also famously said; “Whether you believe or disbelieve (in God), it is a wicked thing to take away Man’s hope.” As the head of state, he had the task of motivating the British people as they faced an overwhelming enemy. He knew the value of speaking to a vague and undefined feature of human nature and in this we possibly find the essence of a pseudoscience like astrology. At a basic level, people need to believe in a positive future. It works at an unconscious and abstract level and transcends science and logic. It also requires a bit of blind faith, like any of the world religions do.
Printing horoscopes that communicate doom and gloom will never work because they would force us to face reality and truth, irrespective of the science involved. Printing horoscopes that communicate positivity and direction does work because they give hope. Irrespective of the science involved.
People want to read that something positive and exciting is about to happen to them. Who cares if it’s based on science? Who cares if it’s true or even remotely plausible?
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