What is astrology? the opinion of an astronomer

"So you participate in the mass cultural delusion that the Sun's apparent position relative to arbitrarly defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your personality...?"
Sheldon Cooper

If you ask any astronomer whether there is any truth in astrology, the answer will be succinct:

There is no scientific evidence favouring any astrological phenomena; physically, there is no effect that a distant star could exert on any kind of living being on the Earth.

Astronomy is the scientific study of objects and matter outside the earth's atmosphere and of their physical and chemical properties, is accepted as a science and is a widely studied academic discipline.

Astrology deals with the apparent positions of the planets and constellations at the precise moment of someone's birth, and claims that these relates systematically to their character, personality traits, relationships with others, profession and auspicious times of their life. Astrology is not widely regarded as science and is typically defined as a form of divination. A good description of the historical differences and similarities of these two subjects can be found here.

Why are we, people living in the XXI century, still so intrigued by astrology?

Sceptics say one of the main reasons it appeals is because we don't like the unpredictable. By promising an insight into what the coming weeks and months could be, astrology gives us the feeling of control over our lives and the unpredictable. Another reason is flattery: personality profiles tend to be peppered with characteristics such as sensitive, emotional, active, practical, pleasant and so on; traits everyone likes to associate with themselves. In order to do that, popular astrologers need a good grasp of psychology, this is where the so-called Forer effect comes into play: some statements seem to apply specifically to yourself, when in fact they have a universal validity. People see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear. Astrologers know that and their columns and predictions are often full of these kinds of statements.

On the other hand, according to several studies it has been shown that people can be succesfully categorized. An argument in favour of astrology is that people of same sign tend to have similar personality traits and that some specific signs tend to meet and get on better with other certain signs. However, this could have a psychological and scientific explanation. At a given time of the year, the relative position of the Earth, Sun and Moon at the time of birth/conception may have an effect on the personality, just because of the feelings, atmosphere and circumstances of the mother on that specific season and period of the year. Studies have argued that the moon's gravity may affect women's menstruation cycle, so obviously emotions are also affected. In many old cultures, the name chosen for the new-born is based on the time and date of the birth and corresponds to natural phenomena of seasonal characteristics; e.g. for the Native American Indians, children born in spring are often called "falcons" whose personalities are like a seed coming up in spring, with energy bursting out, full of vitality and adventurous. But obviously, many other events will influence an individual: the family, school, society, genes, childhood, etc. contribute to make up the personality.


None of this matters if we see astrology as an elaborate zodiac sign column, good only for entertainment or for consoling frustrated romantics. But if we see astrology as a source of knowledge, we are making a claim that, like all claims to knowledge, will be generally contested by philosophers, scientists, and educated people. Unfortunately, it seems quite unlikely that astrologers will ever avoid artifacts or take up critical thinking.

It's seems extraordinary that thousand of years after the zodiac was invented by ancient civilisations, some people still think that some sort of influence exists, based on "energetic" arguments. But not only that, it's surprising that for some groups astrology is more relevant than astronomy in scientific bases.

I finish with a quote by Alice A. Bailey:

"These are astronomical facts. The interpretation of the symbolism attached from ancient days to these constellations is as old as religion itself. Whence came the signs, and how the meanings and symbols associated with them came into being, is lost in the night of time.

They have existed in men's minds and thoughts and writings for thousands of years, and are our joint heritage today."

Good sources on the Astrology vs. Astronomy are: