Myth Busters: Horoscopes, Fact or Fiction?

Whether they are helping travelers navigate, predicting flooding periods for Egyptian farmers, or telling us what our love life has in store for the next month, astrology and the study of Zodiac signs have been influencing human life for thousands of years. The use of Zodiac signs as a method of telling the future and predicting fortune is one of great controversy. The accuracy behind the prophecies provided by the study of stars is widely debated: some are believers, while others believe the field to be a scam. Regardless of where you stand, I’m here to provide you with some truth about the Zodiac that will hopefully solidify your beliefs.

First things first, let's get some things straight. Astrology and astronomy are not the same things. According to Sky & Telescope, astronomy is the study of the universe and its contents outside of Earth's atmosphere. Astronomers examine the positions, motions, and properties of celestial objects. Astrology is the esoteric study of the stars and planets on the premise the heavenly bodies rule or influence events on Earth. Essentially, astronomy is a recognized science studying the celestial bodies, while astrology is a “pseudo-science” that focuses on how these celestial bodies and their characteristics affect conditions on Earth. This is an important distinction many people often skip over, but in order to analyze astrology as a study, we must understand exactly what it entails.

Image via Ancient Tiles

Now that that is out of the way, let’s dig into the REAL question: Is astrology accurate?

Astrology has been used dating back to Ancient China and the Babylonians. Many ancient Chinese tracked the cycles of the moon, primarily eclipses, to predict positive or negative time with their emperor, while the Babylonians tracked the movement of Venus to calculate what they called “Planetary Omens." However, it wasn’t until the Ancient Greek Period (~800 B.C.E. - 500 B.C.E.) that the Zodiac signs were accustomed and widley used in society.

According to the New York Times, zodiac signs were named after constellations set in place by Ancient Egyptians, and matched with dates based on the apparent relationship between their placement in the sky and the sun. Regardless of this documentation, according to Sten Odenwald, the director of Citizen Science at the NASA Space Science Education Consortium, “We don’t really know who first came up with the idea for looking at things in nature and divining influences on humans."

But clearly, this idea has taken hold as horoscopes have only become more popular with studies proving 33% of Americans believe in astrology. With this type of mass popularity, one would expect at least a margin of accuracy from horoscope readings. Many people justify their belief in astrology by comparing it to that in religion. Religious prophecy is not scientifically backed, yet there have been many reported instances of miracles supposedly at the hands of certain religious prophecy or prayer. Others argue it is not the prophecy that horoscopes tell that influences our lives, but how we interpret them. Some Zodiac followers illuminate the point that the job of horoscopes is not to tell the future, but to help one understand what they already know by bringing about inquiry into the deeper self- like religious text it should be used to loosely guide one’s life choices and is not to be taken literally.

Regardless of these arguments in favor of the Zodiac, it is important to look at the science, or rather “pseudo-science” behind its development. NASA’s Odenwald further explains that in the time of the Ancient Greeks, “The first day of spring started when the sun appeared in the constellation Aries and then everything was marked from that time forward around the circuit of the year.”

Since then, however, Earth has adjusted and moved on its access through a process known as precession. As a result, the signs assigned to specific dates of the year no longer correspond with the actual constellations in the sky during that time in the present. Essentially, the signs have moved into different positions, rendering them invalid. Studies at UC Berkely further demerit Horoscopes, saying that when relied upon to produce testable evidence, not enough material was collected to render validity, concluding that “astrologers do not use the scientific method to create their predictions and forecasts are typically too vague to be trusted” (Express).

Despite the presented facts, astrology continues to rise in popularity. A 2014 National Science Foundation poll found more than half of millennials think astrology is a science (New York Times). Perhaps this is because of a psychological phenomenon known as “self-selection,” in which people search for readings or instances that correspond to what they hope to be true, or perhaps this increasing popularity is fueled by a hidden truth only true horoscope connoisseurs are able to see.

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