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I’d like to think that as soon as my first words hit print, my name spread like wildfire across campus and now thousands of eager fans are hitting the refresh key on their browser with bated breath. But that just doesn’t seem plausible. As a writer for the CU Independent, I don’t have a loyal following yet, and that’s fine. But as a writer, it’s nice to know that I’m being noticed.
A week ago today, I got lucky. I had just written “Your Dirty Little Secret,” a purely objective scientific explanation of why astrology can’t be meaningful because the planets and stars can’t possibly affect humans on earth. I was pretty proud of it. The story went up at 4:27 a.m.
Three hours and 52 minutes later, I received an email. The sender explained that though she enjoyed my writing, I was misinterpreting the basic idea behind astrology. She offered to write me a custom horoscope based on the time, date and place of my birth.
Of course, I accepted. She said to give her “a few days” to write it up, but 64 minutes later she had finished. She’s given me permission to quote her and address her points in print so, without further ado, here’s what she told me.
“This almost sounds trite, considering your age, but: You experienced a slow, empowering transit (a year on either side of 2005) that was life-changing.”
A year on either side of 2005 means any time between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2006. That’s between the ages of 15 and 17, and I went through a lot of things. Going to a new school, getting my first girlfriend, having my first kiss, losing my virginity, getting my first car, having fights with my father and so on. We’re talking about over 1000 days during the most formative years of a person’s life—it’d be more shocking if nothing life-changing had happened. So far, I’m not impressed.
She continued: “Because your most masculine planet (Mars) is in its own natural sign of Aries, you tend to be VERY aggressive, particularly in love. You also can become pretty detached about your closest relationships. Watch out—you don’t want to become a sex robot! (Or do you?)”
I don’t know why my most masculine planet is Mars, nor what it means that Mars is “in” Aries. A quick check of a star chart shows that the planet of Mars isn’t in the same place in the sky as the constellation Aries right now, so I’m drawing a blank. But to say I’m detached? An aggressive lover? That’s not really true; I tend to get over-attached. And while we’re here, I prefer the title “sex machine.”
“What you really might want to try is getting in touch with the divine, however that works for you… Your higher power is waiting for you to open your arms wide!! Seriously. This is based on your Node North in Pisces, not some religious notion of mine.”
Again, she is deceptively vague. I don’t believe in God or any kind of higher power, and never have, but the sentence has a built in cop-out in the form of the phrase “however that works for you.”
I don’t have the time or space to attach her entire email, though you’re welcome to contact me if you’d like to see the full text. But my point still stands.
Horoscopes are intentionally vague and humans have a tendency called confirmation bias to notice the things that they agree with and unintentionally ignore the things they don’t.
But the main problem is in this writer’s explanation of astrology. In her original email, she said:
“Anyone who thinks astrology negates or precludes free will is dead wrong. HOWEVER, as well-reasoned and well-written your scribe against astrology is, ‘as above, so below’ applies in that the language (logos) of the planets (astral) is a metaphor for human’s psyches/actions here on Earth.”
It’s nice to see that she’s not saying the planets dictate our actions, but the idea that the motion of celestial bodies has anything to do with our lives, metaphorically or otherwise, is simply not scientifically supported. There is no reasonable correlation to be drawn between the lives of people and the lives (as it were) of the planets.
Her explanation also fails to address why the planets are taken into account, but the asteroids and comets and extra-solar planets aren’t. And what about new discoveries? Her email references Pluto, but what if I’d been born before 1930, when no one knew Pluto existed? How would it have factored in then?
I’m afraid that her predictions only confirm what I’ve said before: astrology is designed to be vague, both in its predictions and its explanations, in order that less skeptical people will ascribe more credit to it than it deserves. It works, most of the time, but when it’s held under scrutiny, it falls apart.
I know that some people care about their horoscopes, choose lovers and life partners based on star sign, and might react emotionally to this kind of objective dismantling of astrology. But science is unforgiving, and facts are undeniable.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Angus Bohanon at Angus.firstname.lastname@example.org.