“You must be fun at parties,” astrology proponents usually clap back at vocal nonbelievers.
Just to get it out of the way, I know I am boring. But I also make it a habit to let people enjoy things: be it pineapples on pizza or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This is provided that such interests are not based on crime, disinformation, exploitation, prejudice, or particularly in astrology’s case—superstition. It’s okay to be cringy, so as long as you’re not harming anyone.
Here's why I’m averse to the idea of astrology and who hurt me enough to write this column. Disclaimer: If I condescend, it’s because I’m a Pisces rising.
The stars align
I’ll start with astrology’s merits, which should be quick.
Cognitive scientist Paul Thagard said that although most philosophers and science historians agree that astrology is a pseudoscience, there is little agreement on why that is. The interdisciplinary book author added that it would be “most unfair” to evaluate astrology based only on the daily horoscopes popularized by newspapers and magazines.
“Answers range from matters of verifiability and falsifiability, to questions of progress and Kuhnian normal science, to the different sorts of objections raised by a large panel of scientists recently organized by The Humanist magazine. Of course, there are also Feyerabendian anarchists and others who say that no demarcation of science from pseudoscience is possible,” Thagard wrote in the journal article Why Astrology is a Pseudoscience published online by Cambridge University Press in February 2022.
Similarly, the McGill Office for Science and Society offered a nuanced take: "Despite incredible scientific progress since its creation millennia ago, astrology hasn’t lost its attraction. Its claims have been refuted over and over again, but in times of anxiety, many find the practice useful."
The institution explained that astrology is considered a pseudoscience due to its lack of progress and refusal to deal with a large body of critical scientific studies.
Nonetheless, it clarified that today’s astrology fans see it as a tool for introspection rather than science, “in large part because its predictions can give them an illusion of control in a time of stress.” McGill instead recommended “more grounded” coping methods like mindfulness practice and engaging in immersive activities.
This insight corresponds with a line written by American journalist and leading pioneer of computer-assisted reporting, Philip Meyer, in The New Precision Journalism that "astrology was a dead issue until newspapers revived it after World War I."
The good news is we can count on the stars for useful means like calculating time, predicting weather and river floodings, and even navigating across trackless terrain. Probably just not a reliable way of making assumptions about people for the sole purpose of managing our stress.
The universe conspires
The American Astronomical Society sensitively differentiated astronomy from astrology: “Astronomy is a science that studies everything outside of the earth's atmosphere, such as planets, stars, asteroids, galaxies; and the properties and relationships of those celestial bodies. Astronomers base their studies on research and observation. Astrology, on the other hand, is the belief that the positioning of the stars and planets affect the way events occur on earth.”
No need to ask me what my star sign is, because that is not my narrative.
I will say that it was my dating history that totally killed the zodiac for me. I’ve dated two Scorpios, one of whom was my least favorite ex for a while until the other one replaced him. I am a Cancer, which apparently means I am compatible with Scorpios as we’re both water signs. Obviously, that didn’t turn out so well. Moreover, based on our signs, I’m supposed to be the manipulative one. Actually, no, Ellen, that's not the truth.
Worse, I’m tired of encountering people in school and the workplace using astrology to justify their problematic behavior. The stars didn’t say you have a difficult personality, Donna, but I did.
Superstition might have been cool in the Dark Ages or whenever the events of Game of Thrones took place, but revisiting it today is just stepping back into the darkness. With science, we have a clear method to think and act rationally.
Out of respect for astrology’s continuing cultural relevance, perhaps it’s best we just agree to disagree. You can keep using birth charts to predict the future or make judgments about a person. To be fair to all parties, the act of practicing astrology, reading up on their daily horoscopes, and seeking advice from the zodiac has never been inherently insidious.
But please keep the cringefest to yourselves. No need to ask me what my star sign is—because that is not my narrative.
Do what you need to do to cope. By all means, you do you. Just leave everyone else out of it unless they explicitly invite you to that conversation. Only then will the stars align and we can finally restore balance to the universe.
The Zodiac Buzzkiller