I’m a bit cynical about astrology. No really.

I once knew someone who had to prepare the ‘Your Stars’ column for the local newspaper.

Conceptual picture I made of a red dwarf with large companion using my trusty Celestia installation.
Conceptual picture I made of a red dwarf with large companion using my trusty Celestia installation.

It was a serious job that had to be got right. The content arrived from an external service (as a lot of newspaper content of this ilk does) but there was only a certain amount of space for the column, and so the daily grind involved shuffling, clipping and mixing the material until it fitted.

Nobody ever complained that their ‘stars’ were wrong.

Setting aside the point that this stuff started off as Babylonian positional astronomy, and the Earth’s precessed since then – which puts all the constellations out by one – my big question is how the astrologers are coping now Pluto’s been demoted. And how did they cope before 1930 when it wasn’t known? And what about the effects of Quaoar, Eris and all the other new dwarf planets?

As for me – well, if I’m going to predict my future, my bet’s with a nice hot cup of tea (Dilmah loose leaf, thank you). No, not the tea-leaves trick. It’sa the Brownian motion in the tea. It’s a great random generator and therefore likely to be right at least as often as astrology.

Trust me. It’s science.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016

12 thoughts on “I’m a bit cynical about astrology. No really.

  1. Oh, this post takes me back to my early days with a statewide daily newspaper in Wyoming. My first job included proofreading (two nights a week); the rest of my time was spent sorting (this including trimming so the backshop could paste it on the page) the “canned” copy (i.e., horoscopes, comics, Hints from Heloise, etc) as well as producing the weekly television schedule for the area. Note: the television schedules were as “accurate” as the horoscopes, both being sent in months ahead of time. As you can imagine, a thankless job. When I told people how “the system,” many thought I made it up as a cover for my inadequacies.:) BTW, the TV schedules were the main bone of contention; it seemed a given that the stars were capricious. 😉 Enjoyed the post, Matthew. Thank you.

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    1. It’s always amazed me how much of that stuff is produced and circulated as a product for periodicals to use. Years ago, when I was a kid, my mother had a job writing copy for the local paper, a kind of gossip-commentary on upcoming TV and media with a local spin, but that was relatively rare (and didn’t last).

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  2. I remember Carl Sagan doing a nice put down of astrology in Cosmos. Every newspaper that morning a different prediction, every prediction worded in vague wishy washy terminology. I also remember the astrologer Mystic Meg being fired by Kevin McKenzie and when she expressed surprise he told her ‘that’s why I’m firing you.’

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  3. My favorite piece on astrology is Theodor Adorno’s “The Stars Down to Earth: The Los Angeles Times Astrology Column.” He analyses astrology as being of a piece with commodity and consumer culture, describing its consumption as compulsive behavior.

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    1. Sounds interesting. I’ve always thought Adorno’s work intriguing – very much framed in ‘old left’ but often insightful into some of the ways the human condition intersects with the way we express it. I once read a 500+ page attempt to use Adorno as a way of gaining insight into Frank Zappa’s ouvre (sounds weird, but the idea worked).


  4. I was going to write this lengthy, philosophical response about astrology and psychology … but then I realized I really don’t know all that much about astrology! Lol. So I’m just going to go with this — I think astrologists are well aware that the stars are in the wrong place and new planets are popping up, and they’re just choosing to ignore it. At the end of the day, astrology is kind of like story-telling — you’re painting a fictional picture of someone’s future, so the truth doesn’t really matter all that much. Which is why I get a kick out of reading my horoscope in the paper — it’s not correct by any means, but it’s still fun to speculate. It’s when you meet people who are hard-core astrologists and draw conclusions about people based on their star sign … that’s where it gets dicey.

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