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...?"
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: