Imagine my disappointment waking up today to find that my star sign has changed? Until now, my star sign was Aquarius, the water-bearer and the eleventh astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation Aquarius. My ruling planet was Uranus (pronounced ‘your anus’). Now NASA – NASA of all people – have come up with a 13th sign, Ophiuchus, which now makes me a Capricorn. I am a changed man. What can this mean? Before I head off for my daily Astrological reading, I’ll explain.
Astrology is what we experts call pseudoscience, or to give it its technical name, bollocks. Astrology is, according to one expert a “2,000-year-old divination practice which claims that the life and personality of some primates is defined by the movement of the moon, planets, and a few randomly defined constellations.”
Here’s another description: “Astrology is the belief that the alignment of stars and planets affect every individual’s mood, personality, and environment — and it all depends on when the individual was born. In astrology, personalised horoscopes are printed by birth date and make vague predictions — generally about the love life, success, and health of people under the same horoscope sign.” How does this work? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
Those of a certain age would watch a late night TV show called ‘The Sky At Night’, presented by a brilliant though eccentric monocle wearing astronomer called Patrick Moore. Astronomy is, of course, real, but many people – wags, I think you would call them – would wind up said Patrick by referring to him as an astrologer. Patrick did not look kindly upon this, angrily explaining that – and here I paraphrase – that astrology was a pile of old shite. Which it is. So, why on earth do people go along with it?
They key to all this pseudoscience, a category which includes all forms of the paranormal and the ‘spirit world’, is people believing in things that aren’t true. And that’s complicated. For some people, it’s very hard to understand that, in terms of life, something came from nothing. Others find it hard that the life on earth simply evolved rather than being created by a celestial dictator in the sky. There must be more to it than that, even though the origins of life are complex enough in itself. Then, importantly in my view, there are the gaps in our understanding of life, where science has not yet come up with an explanation. This is where things get messy.
A popular concept is known as ‘the God of the gaps’. We do not know why something happened, so it must have been God. They same thing applies to everything else we can’t explain. There is a deep desire to find explanations and people do head off in some odd directions.
Astrology is one of these. Its complexity is matched only by the nonsensical and evidence-free nature of what it is about. It’s in our nature to want to understand why we are here and what we are here for (to procreate and nothing else, is the answer) and the idea that there must be more to it than what we are taught. Some of it is harmless, some of it isn’t.
if you read your daily horoscope, it is likely that you will instantly forget what you read or – and I know this happens – arrange your day as best you can to make it all come true. Put simply, if you look upon your star signs are mere entertainment, there’s no harm to it. But when you involve yourself in the paranormal and the mythical spirit world and then place your faith in what is not true, you’re on dodgier ground. It may be comforting to be told that your elderly relative is doing just fine in the after life because no one wants to see elderly relatives die. It may be a nice thought to imagine you will one day be reunited in some kind of heaven. However, there is a significant problem with all this stuff: you will not find the smallest scintilla of evidence that suggests there’s anything to it. There is a reason dead people don’t talk: they’re dead.
Life can be hard and life can be bleak. Putting faith in something that isn’t real can be a useful comfort blanket – that’s what religion is for (in my opinion) – and I don’t blame anyone for trying it. God knows (well, he doesn’t because he isn’t real), I’m as guilty as anyone for burying my head beneath the blankets in order to avoid a grim reality. As children, we all believe in things that aren’t true, like Santa Claus and other such fairy tales and as adults many of us do, too. As a former Aquarian, I’ll stick with what’s true.