General Question

rexpresso's avatar

I resist taking astrology serious, but how can I do that when stuff like this happens?

Asked by rexpresso (920 points ) September 15th, 2010

9 years ago a friend of a friend, just met, said I was pisces, my mother taurus, and my father pisces or aquarius. He was right. He said it with total confidence. He gave it one shot. He got it.

Along the years there have been many people telling me “you’re pisces, aren’t you?”

And yesterday it was this girl that I had just met on the subway, that said with total confidence that someone who starts a conversation with a stranger like that had to be a pisces. Spot on. And then a few minutes into the conversation I mention my partner, we’ve been together for about a year. She then confidently says that for my partner to bear me, she must be aquarius. And you know what? She was absolutely right.

At first glance one might try to explain this by presuming that these examples were lucky, but seriously, the number of times people tried to say my astrological sign and failed is probably two or three. Seems like only the people who can really say my starsign and of others bother to do so, and with absolute confidence.

I’ve recently been reading in scientific media that reality seems to be much more wicked than previously supposed. Time flows backwards, they say. Laws of physics vary throughout the universe, they say. We could be living in a simulation, they say. Well me I am an incorrigible optimist yet definitely extremely suspicious of pseudoscience, and also skeptically critic of regular science, but pseudoscience really I can’t get it to make sense.

A quick calculation of the first example gives a probability of guessing by chance that is (1/12)(1/12)(1/12) = 0.000578703704, or a 0.5 in a 1000 chance

And of the last example with two people is still (1/12)*(1/12), a respectable 0.00694444444, or about a 7 in a 1000 chance.

If you REALLY know how this works, please tell me!

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25 Answers

josie's avatar

Don’t bother taking it seriously. It was what passed for science before there was science. Study something else.

Nially_Bob's avatar

It could just be that you coincidentally match the personality type ascribed to the Pisces sign particularly well. People who are prone to guessing anothers astrological sign are likely to be knowledgeable of the matching personality types of said signs and consequently will guess with ease and confidence what they believe you to be, which to them seems obvious.

laureth's avatar

Simple. Learn about how the precession of the equinoxes affects astrology. Summary: because of the way the earth moves, the astrological signs are no longer accurate in regards to when you were born – they’re one sign off now. Put simply, you’re not actually a Pisces.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Of course astrology is based in science.

We are talking about thousands of years of observing how people are affected (and effected) by the position of the sun, moon and stars at the moment of birth. You don’t get more scientific than that.

amylalala11's avatar

Archetypal cosmology and astrology are serious subjects and real sciences. Their credibility has eroded over time because of hacks and charlatans.

Vortico's avatar

@Ben_Dover, astrology is equivalent to statistically relating two unconnected events repeatedly until a thought relation is discovered. This may actually be scientific by its definition, but this does not mean it has any major uses.

@rexpresso, you say that the first scenario has a 0.5 in 1000 chance of occurring. I say there is a 0.5 in 1000 chance of someone realizing this and stating it.

wundayatta's avatar

You’re doing well with your probabilities, and you discovered that the chances of people making those predictions is actually quite high. There are what? Seven billion people on the planet? This should happen to some 3 million people. 3 million!

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. People who think astrology has any scientific support are like those who look at that clock and say it’s a perfectly good clock. It’s right twice a day! That’s pretty good!

Of course, since we’re talking about personality, we’re talking about aiming at a target the size of a supertanker from ten feet away. Anyone could hit that tanker and crow about how insightful they are. Of course no one ever follows up to see how many of astrologers predictions or analysis is actually accurate. I don’t know if anyone tries. Trying to find a useful measure to use—either something to measure or some way to measure it—is nigh on impossible.

People who say they believe in astrology are not scientists and probably have little understanding of the scientific method. Period. They’ll believe what they want to believe. That doesn’t make it anything more than a parlor game.

Ben_Dover's avatar

@Vortico Actually, astrology studies the effects of planets stars and moons on other bodies.
This is like a question of physics.

We have proof that gravitational and electro-magnetic pull of heavenly bodies causes earthly energy fields to be pulled askew… like The Van Allen radiation belt .

We are all pretty aware of the tidal attractions affecting Earth’s oceans.

These same influences and confluences are occurring at the instant of out birth. We are pulled slightly and in accordance with the position of the stars and moons at the instant of our birth.
When we are born we burst out from the body of salt water in which we have spent our first nine months. And at that time we are nothing more than electro-magnetic impulses flashing along our nervous system.
Oh my, we are being pulled just so as we burst forth from our saline solution. And then careful observation is made and recorded and added to by successive observers.

Bot nay, nay, don’t let’s get carried away and imagine this is some sort of science. After all, the Earth is flat and we are the center of the universe.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

@josie Actually, astrology predates astronomy. Astronomy didn’t grow into a separate field until a few hundred years ago.

True scientific thinkers don’t just say that something like astrology isn’t valid “because science says so”. They question and theorize, and actually use the scientific method, rather than taking the teachings of science as dogma.

@rexpresso I maintain skepticism about astrology, but like you, I’ve seen astrologers come up with accurate, detailed predictions a few too many times to completely write it off.

Ron_C's avatar

I once read that it isn’t the astrology that is important but that it is a process of occupying your conscience mind while your unconscious mind makes connections and correlates events. The more complicated the process astrology, phrenology, or religious ceremony, the freer you subconscious mind is to work on your questions.

The fact that strangers called you a Pisces and others, here, say that you are one sign off is just an indication that it isn’t the astrology at work but coincidence and unconscious though at work. I say keep at it, anything that helps you process life’s problems is of practical value. Just don’t consider astrology, infallible or a science, there is no gain to be had in that direction.

Fyrius's avatar

I think @Nially_Bob is on to something. What ties all these right predictions together could be that your personality just matches the stereotype well; that gets rid of the amazing coincidence of so many people guessing right by chance, and replaces it with the rather more believable coincidence of your personality matching pisces by chance.
If you grew up with influences from astrology, even that coincidence might not entirely be due to chance.

As for astrology, I think whether its predictions are right isn’t the most important issue. Firstly, I want to know how it works. I promise I’ll take astrology seriously as a scientific idea if someone can explain that to me.

The theoretical basis for astrology is, correct me if I’m wrong, that starlight from specific stars in a specific relative direction at the moment of birth can affect or even determine a human’s personality type. This presumably happens even if they’re born indoors under a roof that blocks the starlight, like pretty much everyone.
Once born, starlight – including our sun’s starlight reflected from planets – will continue to have effects on people’s lives, so that you can use the movements of stars to predict their near future, much like you can use the movements of wind to predict the weather. “Random” events are actually predetermined by starlight, even if one would logically expect them to be determined in real time by completely different physical laws.
How does any of that work?

Also importantly, by what rules and mechanisms are personality assessments and horoscopes derived from the positions of stars? Why would people born under Pisces be prone to talk to strangers? Where in the night sky does it say this month will be a tough one for Gemini, and how do we know those stars really mean what they’re taken to mean?

If astrology is a science, then there must be solid answers to these questions, and those must be the first things any student of astrology learns.
If it’s a pseudoscience, nobody ever asks them.

raisedhand432's avatar

I have many thoughts on this subject, as I have devoted 10 years to the study of it, alongside its’ companions mythology, and religion. What I will do is explain the chain of events and thoughts as they happened and try to explain my viewpoint on this. There is also a study I have devised to test astrology that I am currently working on.

On April 2nd, 2001, I met a man named Nick, who was born May 21, 1979. During the first hour we spent together, I noticed that his manner was very similiar to mine, unnervingly so. At this point in my life, I did not think there was any validity to astrology or to much of anything really. I have always been extremely skeptical and a very left-brained, logical mind. Anyways, I asked Nick, “Are we the same or something?” I asked him what his birthday was at that moment, and the urge to do so was instinctual. His birthday was exactly four days before mine, which is May 25, 1979. I then, instinctually, shared my experience of losing my left eye at the age of 15. He then told me he had also lost an eye. I injured my left eye June 2, 1994 and he injured his right eye May 13, 1994. This prompted me to study astrology and see if our similiar birthdates was the reason we are so similiar.
I devoured books on traditional astrology and mythology and religion for the next few years. I noticed a few interesting things and had some intriguing thoughts in that period. First, in relation to Christianity, it seemed that the story of Jesus and his disciples was a sort of allegory representing the zodiac. There are a couple of reasons why I thought this. The main reason deals with the disciple Thomas. Thomas translates literally to “twin”. Thomas’s most memorable and significant role in the bible is when he demands to stick his finger into the wound of Jesus, hence the term “doubting Thomas”. From this, I deduced that Thomas is representative of the sign of Gemini, the twins, for two reasons. The first is obvious: because Thomas literally means twin. The second reason is because he says he won’t believe until he is given proof, which is like the traditional idea of the personality of Gemini(which is my sign), that of a logical, skeptical person. Next, I deduced that the character of Jesus is the other twin. Gemini, the twins, is associated with the archetypal character of Hermes or Mercury, who is the messenger of the gods. The archetype is also the son of god and a selfless character devoted to service and the delivery of a message. The next curious thing I realized deals with the virgin birth. It occurred to me that perhaps it had to do with the sign of Virgo, the virgin. I realized that if Jesus were conceived during the time of Virgo(August 21-September 22), that he would emerge nine months later as a Gemini, as a twin, as Mercury, as the messenger of God. The last thing I noted about the disciples was that John the Baptist is probably a representation of Aquarius the water bearer. Next I discovered the myth of Odin, the scandinavian equivelant of Mercury, Hermes, and Jesus. I read a story about how he sacrifices his eye at the well of Mimir for wisdom. This affected me in a profound way, because I felt like I was basically one of many versions of Hermes/Mercury/Odin/Jesus and that I had lost my eye, so that this knowledge would become clear to me and that I should deliver the message. However, do not judge me as a fanatic for this. I am just a man observing and living. I recognize my inability to know, and keep an objective stance. But, this really got me thinking about the purpose of religious literature and mythology. It seems plausible to me that these stories resulted from these ancient peoples knowledge of the existence of these patterns that we call astrology, and that the stories were a way of passing the information along. Lastly, in regards to ancient people and how they came about these ideas, I wonder if they may have actually been smarter in certain ways than we are today. Perhaps, their right-brains were more developed and they could actually see and understand the patterns of life on a higher level than we can now because their minds were not hindered by language based thought. They were more enveloped in direct experience and therefore may have been able to actually see the pattern, which brings me to the next period of my studies- the last 6 years.
From the moment I met Nick and began to wonder about whether there was any truth to astrology, I began to ask everyone I met and knew what their birthday was. I also would look up the birthdates of any person I might study, see on television, read a book by, etc..
Any person I am familiar with in any capacity, I know their birthdate. For the first few years, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. I just sort of collected the data in my mind, and started questioning and comparing. Does this virgo guy act like this virgo girl? etc…

Now, here is the MEAT of what I have to say about this. I started to notice physical patterns. I started to see that virgos had a certain shape to their eyes. I started noticing geminis talked and acted a certain way. Then, I started, on occasion, to know someone’s birthdate within a few days because they looked very similiar to someone else I knew. I guessed Neko Case’s birthdate in this manner, simply by looking at a picture. I have done this quite a few times, and it is starting to happen more frequently as the pattern is becoming clearer in my mind. At some point, I realized that the simple reason this had happened was because I knew everyone’s birthday. If everyone went by their birthdate as their name, then everyone would have seen this pattern I am becoming aware of a long time ago. It is strange for me though, because I have not met one single person who looks at this the same way I do. Everyone seems to fall into two camps: they are either fanatical, gullible followers of astrology that regurgitate info from books like it is a religion that is all worked out already, or they vehemently deny the possibility and scoff at it. I have felt alone and isolated with what I feel is knowledge that could change the world as we know it. So, I have spent the last year or two trying to figure a way to show what I see. I figured if I can observe these patterns, there must be a way to show these patterns to others scientifically. One day, it hit me.
I have designed a study that can show what I see. The study will look at sets of siblings. If a pair of brothers have the same parents, it seems that they should be almost identical, yet they rarely are. I attribute this to their birthdate. There are other reasons, of course, but I think the birthdate is the main reason. I have noticed that some signs are taller while others are shorter, so height will be the focus. Since I am looking at same-sex siblings, it removes the unwanted variables of race, different genetics, gender, etc… Virgos and Pisces are the apex of the hypothetical line while Gemini and Sagittarius are the trough or the shortest of the hypothetical line. To make it very simple to understand, the hypothesis is that a virgo brother will be taller than his gemini brother a huge percentage of the time, if not every time. I will link a picture of the hypothetical line if anyone is interested. I am in the midst of collecting data right now, which is actually the reason I came to this site. I have been looking for ways to collect data online and figured this community may be willing to take part since it is devoted to knowledge.
There are a few more thoughts I’d like to add about this subject before I finish. I think that it is a science that could be developed. I don’t think that all of traditional astrology is correct. I think much of it is flawed. For instance, I do not think that the more in-depth astrological charts have any validity. I simply look at the birthdate. I also think that the 30 day span of a sign is too broad, and that as we study people to figure out the reality of the pattern, we can break it down into smaller increments, like 5 day spans. I also don’t go for the idea that it is causal. I think that the movement of the planets and everything is what time really is and that time and birthdates are just symbols we use to understand it, but the reality of it is understood without those symbols. To quote Bob Dylan, “Really the truth is just a plain picture”. I also think that we should learn about astrology from people, and not learn about people from astrology. Basically, it is completely undeveloped, though there is some truth in the ground plans the ancients laid out for us. We are the reality of it though, and that is where the answers will come from: the study of the people in correlation with time.

raisedhand432's avatar

Also, the attitude that some of you have towards this subject is selling yourselves short. To deny the possibility so boldly is setting yourself up for embarassment. It is like atheism. There probably isn’t a god, but it’s much smarter to say there is no way to know than assert that you know. That is the same as saying you know there is a god. There is no way to know! If you read what I posted above, then you may see how I came to understand that there may be some truth to astrology. I once thought it was rubbish also. But, I would never claim to know.
Also, in regards to the wobble of the earth’s axis changing the signs, it is irrelevant. The qualities and characteristics of the days of the year or seasons have not changed and neither have the characteristics of the people born on those days of the year or in those seasons.
With all that said, there is still a huge amount of most likely bogus information in the literature on astrology. The task before us is to weed out the truth from the fiction and develop a science out of it. This is my life’s work now. If any of you would like to help me with this study I’m doing, I need help collecting data.

laureth's avatar

@raisedhand432 – so what you’re saying, sort of, is “fact from fiction, truth from diction?”

wundayatta's avatar

@raisedhand432 You are collecting data from people you, personally, recruit on a website? That’s not a random sample. Even if virgos were taller than geminis, you couldn’t generalize that to whole population. Similarly, if you had done any background reading, you would find out that variation in genes is highly correlated with differences in physical features of siblings. There is a lot more variation in genes that it appears you think there is.

Also, it seems like you have fallen prey to another mistake. That is the mistake of generalizing from a single case—yourself. I don’t know whether you have codified your method, but if you haven’t you would need to and give it to others to see if they could replicate. If your method is not reproducible, your results are quite suspect. I.e., you better not be the only one who can do this.

Anyway, do your study. See if you can get it published in a peer-reviewed journal. But I believe you won’t be able to get it published if you don’t make your method a whole heck of a lot more rigorous.

raisedhand432's avatar

@wundayatta
how would you suggest I collect the data? I have consulted the head of statistics at the College of Charleston and am using the methods he suggested. What are your suggestions?

raisedhand432's avatar

@wundayatta
Also, regarding “Even if virgos were taller than geminis, you couldn’t generalize that to whole population”. If in a set of 100 pairs of siblings, the pisces or virgo sibling was taller than the gemini or sagittarius sibling 90% of the time, then wouldn’t that be convincing evidence? I’m not sure what you’re saying in that statement. I’m not saying that virgos are taller than geminis, I’m saying that Virgos are taller than their Gemini siblings. Obviously, if a gemini has really tall parents, they could and probably would be taller than a virgo with short parents.

Also, I am aware that there are other factors in genetics. That doesn’t change the fact that I have observed trends in appearance that seem to correlate to birthdate. I have guessed birthdays within three days on numerous occasions because the person looked very similiar to someone I already knew. The pattern is there for everyone to see; you just have to actively look for it. The first step that no one is taking is becoming aware of everyone’s birthday. I will repeat this from my first post, because it is the key to seeing the pattern: If everyone went by their birthdate as their name, then everyone would begin to see the pattern after a period of time. The pattern is there for you to see, but you haven’t looked. Think of how important this is to humanity.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure who this statistician is, and I sure don’t know what he knows, but perhaps he is just trying to get you off his case. You have what is known as a sample of convenience. The problem with those samples is that you can’t know if there isn’t something special about that group that is not shared in the general population.

Since you are selecting the sample, and it is based on your observations, it is very likely that there is something in your sampling methods that gives you the result you seek, In order to make sure this is not going on, other people need to be able to use your methods and get the same result.

You’d need a random sample, selected by a machine. It would probably need to be of people all over the world. If you’re serious about your work, you’ll read up on sampling methods and try to gather your data in such a way that you are not influencing the results. You will find out, if you learn about sampling design, that a sample of 100 pairs is simply not enough to get anywhere close to significant results, even if they were randomly selected. You’ll need close to 1000 cases, and probably more, since you would want to check this all over the world.

And once again, this is all about you. You need to describe your methods in order to see if others can duplicate them. I’m sure that if your results are as powerful as you say they are, scientists will be lining up to check them.

I’m not a scientist, so I’ll wait for scientists to confirm your results before I get all excited and try to find Geminis and Virgos who are siblings. I’m sure if you find evidence to support your hypothesis, the study will be all over the news everywhere.

raisedhand432's avatar

@wundayatta
Thank you for the thoughtful response.
I have done some research on sampling methods, but not enough. That is next on my list now. However, I don’t think sampling from all over the world would be necessary. A very large sample, as you pointed out, is necessary. 1,000 was what I was thinking, but the more the better. At this point though, my main focus is making sure that my sampling methods will be considered credible. It would be ridiculous to gather a bunch of data, only to be told that it is not credible. Once again, thanks for the input.

raisedhand432's avatar

@wundayatta
Btw, the statistics professor suggested I flip to random pages in the phone book and call them. I thought that was not the greatest idea, but I guess he was aiming at making it random.

wundayatta's avatar

I do think sampling from around the world would be necessary. If you just do the U.S., people can always say that there is something special or different about the US that is not shared by the rest of the world, or that biases your results.

I would not be so sanguine about my anecdotal observations, either. When you think about it, a sibling has to be either taller or shorter than the other sibling. This is true for people from the parts of the zodiac you are interested in. It is not unusual to have a number of the same observation in a row (think flipping coins and getting 10 or 20 heads in a row—that seems unusual, and yet is well within the bounds of randomness),

Anyway, I hope you aren’t investing much in your research. I don’t know what it will accomplish—I mean, why should anyone care? So the expense to benefit ratio is not there, as far as I can tell.

raisedhand432's avatar

@wundayatta
“I don’t know what it will accomplish—I mean, why should anyone care? So the expense to benefit ratio is not there, as far as I can tell.”

Are you kidding me? That’s a ridiculous statement. If there is a relationship between birthdate and human characteristics, it will be a very important revelation. It will change so many fields, including medicine, psychology, biology, management, pretty much everything because it is such a basic thing. It will change the way we look at teaching, relationships, and the list will go on and on. Who knows what the revelation may spark or lead to? What new knowledge or realizations will it breed? People will also see that it is the point of most of the religious literature through the ages.

wundayatta's avatar

@raisedhand432 How might it change any of these fields?

raisedhand432's avatar

@wundayatta

Medical field: A person has a particular type of body with specific weaknesses and strengths as dictated by their birthdate. A gemini abuses their nervous system. A virgo abuses their intestinal system or their intestinal system is vulnerable. In a nutshell, a doctor could have a more complete idea of the patients body and how it specifically works. Therefore, diagnosis and treatment could be more accurately given.

Psychology: Particular birthdates yield particular psyches.

Biology: Particular birthdates yield particular biological characteristics.

Management: Knowledge of employees strengths and weaknesses, and mode of operation.

Teaching: Knowledge of students strengths, weaknesses, inclinations, modes of thought and operation. Tailored teaching methods.

Relationships: Some signs create harmony, while others create discord. This is similiar to music and can be calculated. The golden ration can be employed to show the harmonious relationship amongst sagittarius, gemini, and leo or aquarius, gemini, and sagittarius. Act accordingly.

If we can observe the pattern, and define it further and further, we can come to understand ourselves, each other, and the way that we operate and operate together at a much higher level. This will have an effect on every field. My focus is not on the applications though; that will be in the hands of the specialists in all fields to integrate the knowledge and make good use of it.

wundayatta's avatar

Whoa there.

First of all you’re trying to establish a relationship between sign and size of siblings. Now you’re speculating there are a gazillion other factors that could be in play? No, no, no, no, no.

You’ve got one relationship that you have anecdotal evidence for. So you want to see if that relationship really is there. To leap from that possibility to the idea that stars could play a role in all kinds of things…. well, that’s just wild fancy. Stick to one thing. Don’t make any wild assumptions until you have at least experienced it for yourself.

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