By Bradley Harrington
“Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.” — Isaac Asimov, “The Deadly Misinformation,” 1982 —
After I ran my astronomy piece last week (“My Friends Up in the Sky,”), a good friend of a reader was joking with me and asked me if I’d cast him a horoscope.
I shuddered before I replied:
“While ASTRONOMY (i.e., the study of the nature of celestial bodies and the manner in which they interact) is a legitimate science,” I said, “ASTROLOGY (i.e., the belief in the supposed influence of the stars and planets on human affairs and characters) is certainly no such thing.”
After being greeted with a look of incomprehension at that statement, it became clear to me that further discussion was going to be necessary.
■ If it is true that the positions of the stars and planets at birth determine character, then it follows that everyone born on the same day of the same year should have the same character. Yet even identical twins, born minutes apart, have different characters.
■ And why is it that “birth” is the deciding factor here, as opposed to the time of conception? After all, that is the point at which the life of the fetus actually begins. Astrologers, however, in their typical pseudo-scientific fashion, pick the former instead of the latter because the time and date of the first is known while the time and date of the second usually isn’t.
■ If the astrologer is going to claim the stars and planets affect our lives in some manner, it stands to reason that those heavenly bodies are exerting a force of some kind to achieve this effect. But, since the only forces we receive from such bodies are gravity and electromagnetic radiation, it must therefore follow that it’s one of these two forces, or both in conjunction with one another, that serve as the culprit.
Yet, if one takes the gravity equation (F=Gm1m2/d2) and plugs in the relevant factors, one will discover that the gravitational influences of the doctor delivering the child are much more potent than that of the heavenly bodies — and, as for light, I have yet to see it penetrate the walls of a hospital.
Therefore, should the astrologer seek to stick to this hypothesis, it then becomes necessary to postulate the existence of a heretofore unknown force to generate these effects instead. And that force is … ??
■ As some people are aware, the “signs of the Zodiac” are the 12 constellations which line the plane of the ecliptic (the plane in which all solar system bodies revolve in as they journey around the Sun).
Uh, except that there are actually 13 such constellations, not 12 … It seems as though the astrologers forgot about Ophiuchus, part of which sits directly between Sagittarius and Scorpio, where the sun resides for a full 23 days out of the year. Scorpio, by contrast, contains the sun for only five days out of the year.
So, why didn’t the ancient astrologers, who devised the current system, include this constellation? Well, the number “13” is “unlucky,” for one, and there are also only 12 months to the year. So, we’ll just blank it out. And this is “science”? I don’t think so.
■ Another astronomical phenomenon that has severe implications for the “science” of astrology is known as the “precession of the equinoxes.”
Because Luna orbits Earth in the plane of the ecliptic, NOT the plane of Earth’s equator, there are therefore times when Luna is south of the equator and times when it is north instead. Because of this uneven gravitational influence, the Earth’s axis, tilted 23.5 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic, therefore wobbles, tracing out two great circles, one in the north and one in the south, 47 degrees wide, which take 23,720 years to complete a circuit.
Well, when the Ancients first devised these schemes, the Sun resided in the constellation Aries at the vernal equinox (the beginning of spring). But that was quite some time ago, and the Sun now resides in Pisces at that time instead. And, in a few more thousand years, will reside in Aquarius.
So, how are astrological charts supposed to have any legitimate meaning, when they’ve been out of whack for at least two millennia? And are getting even FURTHER out of whack all the time?
Well, when the “Age of Aquarius” finally materializes in another few thousand years, I’m sure we’ll have a bunch of astrological nincompoops trying to tell us otherwise.
No, Dear Reader, our fates are not to be determined by the stars, but by ourselves instead — and the day we each realize that, is the day we begin stepping into our true adulthood.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.