The Media is having a newsgasm over the supposed discovery that the Astrological calendar is off. Here’s what you need to know.
FOR the Western Hemisphere, this past winter solstice brought with it a total lunar eclipse, the first time both phenomena paid simultaneous visits to that region in over three centuries. To mark the occasion, I shared a link to Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan’s touching appeal to dignity, reason, and humility through science. Like a great many people, I enjoy feeling connected to the cosmos; and through astronomy I get perspective, awe, and beauty. It’s a good bargain, with Sagan as it’s most forceful and most poetic advocate.
Then there’s Astrology. Astrology has been in the news recently, because an astronomy association in Minnesota released data showing just how far the Zodiac signs have drifted since they were first fabricated by semi-literate, bronze age, Babylonian mystics. Because we do not live in a static universe, as the Babylonians believed, but on a tilted, wobbling planet in an ever-expanding one, the ancient Zodiac calendar is about as accurate as Helen Keller with a hand grenade. The data shows that the signs have essentially moved back one full motion, so September’s Virgos are “now” Leos, a sign which, until now, belonged to August babies.
Two things are interesting about this “development”. One is that, at least among fans of science, this is old news. In fact, just after I posted the link to Pale Blue Dot, I posted another link to Bill Nye (that’s right, the science guy) making the exact same point regarding astrology on an April 10, 2005 episode of his TV program The Eyes of Nye. Why no credit for Nye? The second interesting thing will be watching astrologists attempt to square yet another circle. Let’s face it: if they survived Galileo’s proof that the Earth orbited the Sun and not, as Astrologers had contended, the other way around (forging a strange and terrifying coalition of Astrologers and the Pope), rest assured they’ll brush this aside like someone wearing black without the blue.
Astrology is a perfect alignment of two human behaviors: Our pattern-seeking need for explanation (a good thing about us), and our willingness to accept a bogus explanation over no explanation (a bad thing about us). It’s not going anywhere.