Astrologers vs skeptics: Answer to an article from Wikihow

A skeptic studying astrology

It seems impossible to find skeptics that, in order to confute astrology, really tried studying it… are those skeptics all become astrologers?


Note: If there are astrological terms that you do not understand consult my glossary.



Everyone will know Wikihow, the collaborative platform where anyone can write instructions to perform whatever operation and coping with any problem or situation.

Naturally with these platforms it can happens that, the person who writes, in fact is not prepared enough.

This doesn’t happens often, but it can occur and now we have someone that has thought well of writing an article to argue that astrology is fake:

The introduction explains that the article is done to give useful instruments to help you in obtaining that your acquaintances stop giving too much importance to sun signs columns. A commendable purpose indeed since, as we know, these columns are bereft of any real value. But in fact the author wants not only to confute this mockery of astrology, but also what he believe our art is.

However we must aknowledge that he who wrote these instructions is moved by good intentions and also invites the readers to respect the ideas of the others and avoid hurting the sensibility of those who believe in astrology.

Sadly most skepticism, and probably also that of the author, derives from the big misunderstanding that brings to believe that Astrology consists simply of horoscopes and notions about the individual personality based on the sign where the Sun is.

Reflect on this: every sign comprises about 1/12 of the world population, how can anyone think that forecasts valid for about 600 millions of people at the same time can be made?

It’s impossible and nothing of this kind can be expected.

This is the great misunderstanding: the skeptics believe that astrology has this untenable claim and so consider it unworty of serious research, still horoscopes are not real astrology.

Also for the Sun sign we can say similar things: declaring yourself for example greek or german gives more information than declaring yourself “Aries” since the greeks or the germans are much less than the all the people born under Aries.

If there is so much talking about the Sun sign is because to know your sign you need only your bitrthday, so everybody know his/her Sun sign. The other “ingredients” of a birth chart, instead, require some additional efforts and informations to be acquired.

The horoscopes are based only on the Sun sign because this way they have the same value to everybody born under that sign (...if only an horoscope could be worth more than zero).


How (not) to argue that astrology is false


Let’s see how the author wants do argue the falsity of the art.

Part 1: Testing the star sign

1) Pretend you are another star sign around someone who knows a good deal about astrology. See if they guess the incorrect star sign that you are pretending to be.

Anyone knowing “a good deal about astrology” knows that the Sun sign is only a single element, although important, among many other informations in the birth chart.

It wouldn’t be strange at all if someone with the Sun in Capricorn seems having a behaviour generally associated to Gemini due to the other elements of his chart.

In fact a similar test would be a bit more serious using the ascendant, but as I said few persons knows something more than their Sun sign, and probably the author of these instructions isn’t among them.


2) Read the daily or weekly horoscope. Compare other star signs to yours. Notice how many of them will have a general statement that will, most likely, apply to your individual situation. Nearly all daily newspaper horoscopes are not carefully constructed, or are in fact generated randomly.

As I already said in the introduction to this article and explained in detail in my “Against horoscopes” it is absolutely correct affirming that horoscopes are worthless, and it is also true that sometimes they are made up, but astrology is another thing.


3) Notice the generalizations among those who practice or believe in astrology. People interpret the same text in different ways to suit them best.

  • Star signs tend to reflect generalizations about regular human behaviors. Study the common generalizations about the signs and try to guess the signs of people you may know. Then, compare their real sign to the one you believed them to have. Are you correct?

This critique hasn’t much sense: “Star signs tend to reflect generalizations about regular human behaviors” of the uses of astrology is precisely to analize the personality of a human being, the signs are only an important component of this analysis.

Instead of criticizing it has been showed a thing that can be made using astrology; the problem rises from the fact that the author sees a single ingredient and take it for the end product, like saying that the cakes do not exist because an egg or a kg of flour is not a cake.

So the suggestions of studying “the common generalizations about the signs” to see if they match with the Sun sign of your aquaintances do not work and cannot work, save exceptions, because there is much more still missing.

Part 2; Sun sign astrology

1) Know a little bit about sun sign astrology. The most popular form of traditional Western astrology is sun sign astrology, the kind found in the horoscopes of many daily newspapers. If it were indeed accurate, its predictive value would be extremely high but, historically, that has not been the case, for societies following it would be using it in powerful ways, consistently, as that would be the true test.

It is not clear what we should do of the “little bit” we learned, as if it were sufficient learning it to be conscious of its inerent falsity.

The predictive potential can be high, but it is very difficult to master, and we surely can’t rely on a “little bit” of astrology to do accurate predictions.

Some managers and politicians even now rely on astrologers, but they do not make it public (when it has been discovered that Ronald Reagan was asking advices to an astrologer, the reaction of the public forced him to cut the ties with him, at least publicly).


Point 2 of part 2 is rather long and I avoid burdening you with it since it speaks of the precession of the equinoxes and of the usual pretence that Ophiucus should be a 13th sign, both matters already discussed in my article “The (useless) controversy of the precession of the equinoxes


Part 3 paradoxes and withful thinking

1) Notice the paradoxes. The modern signs as listed here are further complicated when their boundaries are those of the current constellations. A neater way of dividing the signs would be to divide the ecliptic into 30-degree slices, as Ptolemy did, but to keep the slices centered on the star patterns. This would make the time interval for the signs more nearly 30 days each and eliminate the [13th] sign of Ophiuchus, but your modern sign would still differ by one sign from the tradition designations.

This is involuntary humorous. I can’t hide my surprise in discovering that the author managed to know this subdivision made “as Ptolemy did” without understanding that it is exactly the zodiac used since millennias (surely before Ptolemy) and still in use today.

At this point he would have had also the possibility of discovering that in western astrology Aries begins with the spring solstice, moment during which the apparent Sun motion makes it to cross the equator and begin its rising north.

I hope that he never brought these objections to an indian astrologer since vedic astrology is based on the position of some stars and so it follows the precesson, as our polemicist would like.


2) Do a bit of research into the Forer effect. This was named after psychologist Bertram R. Forer, who demonstrated the propensity of people to believe that vaguely worded personality "profiles" (which could apply to anybody) were accurate, custom-tailored profiles.

So to confute astrology it is sufficient learning “a little bit” of astrology or “the common generalizations about the signs” but then we must do a research on the “Forer effect”.

...I am sure that the admiration for the rigorousness of this method is unanimous.

Still it will be a good idea taking account the Forer effect when interpreting the birth chart, thank you for the information.


3) Think about the similarities between astrology and racism. They both operate on the principle that a person's behavior is based on how they were born instead of who they are. Though most astrology readings are parlor tricks pointing out the most general positive qualities in a person, it does follow that if you believe that a person is introspective because they were born in December, then you can also buy into the foolish idea that a person is lazy because of the color of their skin.

What can I say, astrology investigate on how a person really is and affirms that it can do it examining the planet’s position wieved from the earth at the moment of birth, according the analogy principle; our adversaries think that this isn’t possible and so consider the attribution of characteristics to a person using astrology as “racism”.

Certainly if astrology would consist of giving characteristics to a person only because he is born with the Sun in Aries or Libra the skeptics would indeed be right, but as I said already too many times the things are different; a birth chart has many other elements beyond the position of the Sun, allowing to reach specific and individually tailored results.

There have been also cases of applicants for a job that denounced firms for discrimination because they had been rejected using astrological criterias (obviously we are sure that these persons were contesting the selection criteria itself, so they would have denounced even if they had been chosen…) for example: where is referred that an austrian insurance firm offered some part-time jobs in sales and management to persons born under Leo, Capricorn, Aquarius, Taurus and Aries. The firm affirmed that a statistical research showed that the majority of their best employees where born under those signs and so decided to recruit from them.

They had been accused of discrimination but the laws did not comprised this case as a possible discrimination and the firm’s lawyers pointed out that all born under that sign (men and women, youngs and elders, whites and blacks, catholics and protestants alike) are took in consideration so it is only a limitation, not a discrimination.

In fact it could be considered a discrimination, the more so since the firm itself admits that some of their best employees where born also under other signs.

Some HR departments like it quick, they simply wanted to speed up the selection for positions that probably weren’t of high level management.

We can suppose that, for choosing a manager for a key position, they would use a more in depth chart analysis to avoid missing the best candidate (and also because they would have to work on less profiles).

Astrology can indeed be used as a mean to select a candidate, like a personality test.

For example I do not have the psycological characteristic to work as an animator; that this is discovered empirically by the business owner during the job interview, by a psycologist that does a personality test or by an astrologer that sees the strong Saturn influence in my birth chart (I am simplifying pointing only the main cause) this has no importance. Instead, according only to my Sun sign (Leo), I could be considered rather apt for the job.

Astrology, differently from racism, can find with precision potentialities and limits of the individual, helping him in finding the way to fully express himself.

Keep in mind also that usually the astrology books have always recommended of taking informations about the context and the social condition of the person, to avoid affirming that the native will become a king when he is of humble origin and he will hardly become more than the master of a guild (just to use an example taken from ancient books).


4) Realize that it was only in the turn of the century that phrenology (studying the physical features of one's skull) was well accepted, in that the lumps and defaults of one's cranium could be interpreted analogously to your personality. In a similar way, astrology tries to pawn itself off as science by its inherent vague methods.

I do not know phrenology so I won’t speak of it. I can only say that astrology is more often called “art” than “science”.

It must be considered that also many psycologists do not consider their discipline a “science”, but this is not the point.

To skeptics and astrologers alike the real question is: is astrology a valid instrument or not?

Astrologers studied it and concluded that it works, skeptics usually know only vague and distorted notions about sun signs and, even worse, think that is not much more than Sun sign columns.

To doubt astrology is legitmate, the skeptics have always existed, and in our days are surely more than in the past. This is absolutely understandable considered the way of thinking dominant in our times (at least for the western world).

Still it is saddening the fact that the skeptics usually move groundless critiques, based on a complete ignorance accompanied by the claim of moving valid objections, that should demonstrate to even the most “supertitious” the absurdity of his beliefs, when in fact they are completely missing the target.

Sadly the cause of this must be looked among the astrologers themselves, many of whom, adhering to the mass market for more or less understandable reasons, accept of doing horoscopes acting as if they should be believed or give notions on Sun signs, notions that, in the eyes of the vast public ignorant of astrology, aquire exceeding relevance.

- The Cat