Is it a big deal that every reputable major newspaper still publishes horoscopes? Am I already, at 26, a stuffy, joyless, bearded atheist skeptic bent on destroying everything fun because it’s not rational? Isn’t Astrology just a bit of harmless distraction for the people? The wretched, miserable people who just need a little excitement in their dull, hopeless lives? And they’re ugly?
No, totally wrong. I don’t have a beard. And superstition is never harmless. How many jive suckers make bad relationship and financial decisions based on their horoscope every day? Their belief is legitimized when it’s in print, and unfortunately there are always some who take it too seriously.
Of course I would be preaching to the choir if I said that there’s no evidence for Astrology, and that it’s already been debunked by countless studies (although in my opinion it doesn’t even warrant studying – a claim that requires the suspension of known laws of physics, and offers no mechanistic explanation of how that would work, fails before it begins). And we know this doesn’t matter to the believers, for them it just works, science doesn’t have all the answers, etc. So I thought it may be worthwhile to approach the problem from a slightly different angle.
First, the usual drill. Someone asks you what your star sign is, and you tell them any sign you aren’t. They say “I knew it, that’s totally you”, and you correct them by telling them another sign you aren’t, and so on. After that amusing cycle has been exhausted, try this – point out that Astrology is actually a form of prejudice. “How so?” I hear you ask, which is weird, because you haven’t read this yet, and I have no means with which to hear you ask anything. I’ll get my ears checked out in due course, but in the meantime I’ll answer your psychic time-travelling question.
Pretty simple, really – it divides people into arbitrary categories, and then judges or predicts their personality based on those categories. Try substituting ‘Libra’ or ‘Pisces’ for ‘Jew’ or ‘Italian’ and you immediately see the problem. Generally speaking, followers of Astrology have a bit of the new-age hippy in them, and should therefore recoil in terror at the idea of harbouring any bigotry.
Granted, it may be a fairly benign form of prejudice (at least in this country), but it is a prejudice nonetheless. And it could be argued that many destructive prejudices today had benign origins. Also, it’s not so benign in other countries like India, for example – where some Universities even offer advanced degrees in ‘Vedic Astrology’.
So maybe try pointing this out next time some mentions their horoscope, it might carry a little more weight for the believer than the traditional Science Beat Down™.
FUN FACT: As research for this piece I read about three horoscopes before stabbing myself in the eye with my pen. Bic has not responded to my requests for compensation.