Astronomy is a fascinating science – the investigation into celestial bodies their behaviours and effects on and within the universe is a hugely deep and rich playground for scientific discovery that we have still only just made an imperceptible dent in understanding the great expanse known as space. Science fiction owes much to the astronomers and scientists in this varied and hugely impressive field. But I’m not here to talk about astronomy – I’m here to talk about astronomy’s idiot cousin astrology.
If astrology was an animal, it would probably be the giant panda – evolving itself into obsolescence but still somehow plodding along in the world thanks to everyone thinking it’s cute. Astrology baffles me, and not because I don’t understand the methods with which astrologers gain their insights into the future – in fact, I’m fairly sure their methods amount to looking at a big picture of the night sky and a dictionary before rolling a couple of dice to determine which words to stick with which planets. No, astrology baffles me in that it is still around today in our society ruled by science and logic (ignore places like the North of England and the South of America for a moment).
Astrology was the science of ancient times – if Wikipedia is to be believed (which it always is, without question) then people have been searching for meaning in the stars for as long as 25,000 years. Since then, not a lot has really changed, and the definitions and practices of astrology change depending on what part of the world you’re in – Western astrology focuses more on horoscopes and the monthly zodiac of twelve creatures/beings/items, whereas Chinese astrology was created to incorporate ideas of philosophy, alchemy and divination (thanks again to Wikipedia for that).
Science has turned its gaze towards astrology, but in most cases has found it lacking in any solid proof of anything useful to anyone ever. Stephen Hawking noted that, “The reason most scientists don’t believe in astrology is because it is not consistent with our theories that have been tested by experiment,” and “When it was discovered that the Earth was not the center of the universe, astrology became impossible.” It’s hard to argue with the guy who writes about the science of space in his spare time.
Let’s look at horoscopes, the ultimate testimony of astrology that certain people cling to like a floating door after the Titanic crash that both Jack and Rose could blatantly have fit on top of. The problem I have with horoscopes is that they never seem to give you any concrete facts and pander purely to the most general feelings that one might experience. To take this example for Capricorn from horoscopes.com: “Have you been waiting to hear about some funds, Capricorn, perhaps to create a piece of art, write a book, or make a documentary film? If so, you could have a lot to celebrate today when you receive news that the money is forthcoming!”
Well that’s fantastic! I’ve not been waiting for money at all, and I am a Capricorn, but nevertheless I won’t say no to a bit of monetary gain. Oh wait: “Don’t be surprised if there’s a delay, however. The project is still going to happen, but just a little later than you’d hoped. All you can do now is be patient.” Right, so these funds that I’ve not particularly been waiting for at all might not actually be coming today, but as long as I wait they’ll come eventually, possibly in my next paycheck! Thanks astral gods of wonder!
The main problem with the above example is that there is literally no one who doesn’t want more money for something. Every day, people want more money to go on holiday, buy a nice sofa, eat something more than the rat they fought this morning, stuff like that. If it just said “You will come into money today”, that would be fine, but the fact that it says that it might not actually happen today but might happen sometime in the future just weakens any possible strength this ‘prediction’ might have. And yet, when horoscope-people eventually get some money (it doesn’t matter how much or how little) they will raise their teary eyes to the sky and weep in thanks to the stars that deigned to give them this foresight.
Basically, I think that horoscopes and astrology belong in the past with reading chicken entrails and witchcraft, both of which were more badass pastimes that somehow got left behind. It’s time for astrology to take a hike and stop sullying astronomy’s good name.