Here’s my challenge to proponents of astrology: show me how those ancient people figured it all out. You know, all those detailed rules, and charts you use. I’m not talking about the astronomical data – where the sun and planets were at given times. I’m talking about the meaning given by astrologers to the astronomical data: how did they ever work out which specific astrological aspect affected which personality characteristic and in what way? Because if they didn’t derive it somehow, they must have just made it up. And if they made it up, it’s very unlikely to be true. So my challenge to you is prove me wrong: show me it was not made up.
How do we know what we know?
I’ll give you an idea of what I mean. If you want to know how we originally figured out any scientific fact, the information is available somewhere, and you can often repeat the experiment to test it for yourself. For example, if you want to know how Galileo knew that the planets orbit the Sun and not the Earth, you can read how he observed the phases of Venus through his telescope. What he saw was exactly what you would expect to see if Venus did orbit the Sun. If you have a decent amateur telescope you can confirm Galileo’s observations yourself.
Likewise, if you want to know how we first calculated the speed of light, you can read about Olaf Romer’s observations of Jupiter’s moons. Romer observed that when the Earth was farthest away from Jupiter, the innermost moon took 11 minutes longer before it reappeared from behind the planet, compared with when Earth was closest to Jupiter. He deduced that this additional time was due to the extra distance the light had to travel, and from this he calculated the speed of light. Again, you can confirm these measurements if you want to, although the speed of light has also been confirmed many other ways since then (all documented).
And if you want to know how Eratosthenes figured out the circumference of the Earth in 205 BC, even that information is available. (He measured the differing lengths of shadows at midday, at different latitudes. )
Every scientific fact, from how Maxwell derived his famous equations to how we know about the strange behavior of the quantum world, was derived from observation and experiment. It’s all recorded somewhere, it can all be checked, and nothing is known by magic. No accepted knowledge was simply “made up” because it sounded right; we always know how it was derived and tested. Where is the equivalent body of knowledge for astrology?
Current astrology “research”
Any cursory study of astrology will reveal a host of detailed charts, tables and rules to be followed to determine what makes up a person’s personality. The National Council for Geocosmic Research, a “non-profit organization dedicated to raising the standards of astrological education and research” (the same people who brought you the double blind test that astrology failed), have a Research Director who is “here to support you in your astrological research efforts”. Their “research” page even has a free program called NeuroNet, that you can download to help you look for correlations between astrological aspects and personality traits. (Of course, correlation is not causation, and from a brief look at their data, their research doesn’t show anything like what they think it shows, but let’s ignore that for now.) The manual for this program states:
Before the computer era, it was impossible to make proper statistical researches
Note, not difficult: impossible. So how did the Babylonians, 3500 years ago, and those that followed, do the impossible?
I have posed that question to many believers in astrology. They usually refer to “ancient texts”, but no one has yet been able to produce references to such documents. One person sent me the history of astrology by Robert Hand, but this just tells us how ancient texts were translated, and how one set of myths was incorporated into another. It tells us nothing about how it was derived. Another person told me the ancients must have carried out large scale personality tests and correlated them to the zodiac. The idea of the ancient Babylonians conducting some kind of massive personality survey is patently absurd, but even if we play along with the idea, still no one can show me the data. Face it, they don’t exist.
Of course, we have a pretty good idea how astrology really started. The ancient peoples didn’t know what those stars and planets up in the sky really were; they just saw pictures in the sky (constellations), and imagined them to be real – messages or omens from the gods. They thought that if you were born under the sign of, say, the lion, you would have characteristics of the lion. They thought the same for the other pictures in the sky, and for the planets that they named for gods. This method of thinking is extremely primitive. It’s the same principle as voodoo: stick a pin in the voodoo doll’s stomach, and the victim feels pains in his stomach. Do it to the doll and the same is done to the person. It is known as sympathetic magic. Sympathetic, because the stomach of the person feels the same as the stomach of the doll. And magic, because there is no known way that this would ever work. It is, of course, nonsense.
And that is how the detailed rules of astrology were written and added to over the centuries. Supposed characteristics of one of the pictures in the sky are assigned to a person, depending on where the Sun, Moon or planets were in relation to the magic picture at the time of birth. But it was never derived from factual data; it was made up fairy-tale fashion. And if it was made up, it is highly unlikely to be true. At the very least, astrology’s doubtful provenance means we would need extraordinary evidence that it works, before we should accept it does. But we are only offered weak evidence. And when tested, astrology fails again and again.
So my challenge to believers in astrology is: prove me wrong. Show me how the ancient peoples worked out all those detailed rules that you use. And please show your work.
Alternatively, if you can’t show how it was derived, isn’t it about time you admitted that it’s just a load of made-up nonsense?
You can answer by hitting the “comments” button below.
Edited to add:
Before commenting, you should read the replies to this question by three astrologers. They were:
Penny Thornton, and
Click the links above for their individual detailed replies and my comments. Also see my summary of their replies and my conclusions.
Edited again to add:
Since many people are apparently having trouble understanding what this thread is all about, I thought I would try to spell it out one more time:
This thread was set up to challenge proponents of astrology to explain how all the detailed astrological rules were derived. I am leaving the comments section below open for anyone to post their explanations, or links to same.
Take note: the comments section below is not open for people to post how hard it is to do this, how astrology works for you, how skeptics are closed-minded, how it doesn’t matter if astrology is real or not, or any other drivel you care to write. If you want to whine about these things get your own blog.
Post details of how astrology was derived, showing all your work, or do not post at all. Posts that violate these rules will be summarily deleted.