Astrological Blather

Star signs are a bunch of hooey

Wikimedia Commons | Photo courtesy
Star signs are a glimpse at history and little more.

“What’s your star sign?”

It’s a question that floats around campus. I’ve been asked this question as an uncomfortable ice-breaker, during roll call in classes and even by a potential on-campus employer. Sometimes, it can be unclear whether or not people actually put stock in star signs or whether they are just a fun way to categorize people in fixed groups.

Star signs and the horoscopes based on them are notorious for their vague and overall pleasing nature. They tell you what you want to hear and get just as specific as they need to where they can still (barely) apply to everyone. So, are you someone who indulges in astrological culture? And if you do, how much stock do you put in what they say about you?

It’s surprising that it’s needed to be said, but astrology is not a science. The use of putting people into personality categories by looking to the sky doesn’t have any roots in science. Additionally, astrology is not the same as astronomy, the study of space as a whole, which is a branch of science.

Star signs and the horoscopes based on them are notorious for their vague and overall pleasing nature. They tell you what you want to hear and get just as specific as they need to where they can still (barely) apply to everyone.

Those who may be rolling their eyes here, “Of course astrology isn’t a science,” might be interested to know that a recent National Science Foundation poll found that over half of Millenials do think astrology is a science. This is both fascinating and a bit concerning for a number of reasons.

First of all, when you look at your zodiac sign, you must understand that it corresponds to the sun relative to constellations as they appeared more than 2,000 years ago when Babylonian and Greek astrologers first came up with the concept. has since determined that the earth has since shifted in its position to constellations where most of us would now be one star sign to the right of where we currently are (i.e. Aries are really Taurus, Taurus are Gemini, and so forth).

The way these signs derive their meaning is also rooted in ancient Greek understanding. The 12 signs correspond to classical elements (fire, water, earth and air), and these elements lead to certain personality traits. Of course, these ‘elements’ are far from being grounded in science.

In the United States alone, each sign has roughly 27 million members. The idea that all of these individuals share unique traits based on a system of grouping people that echoes “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is as ridiculous as it sounds.

The thing is that a lot of college-aged students know astrology is not real science and they still cling to and enjoy partaking in it. So why is it that people spend five minutes each morning reading a horoscope they know has no basis in any concrete evidence?

There are a few reasons. The first is psychological. As astronomer Sten Odenwald would explain, the science behind astrology might not be real, but the inclination does point to very real human tendencies: “A psychological phenomenon [I] call the human tendency for ‘self-selection,’ the search for interpretations that match what we already hope to be true.”

People are interested in astrology for the same reason we are interested in taking hundreds of Buzzfeed quizzes, finding our Myers-Briggs scores, or being sorted into our ideal Hogwarts house: it tells us something about ourselves we want to hear. 

Each of the twelve signs comes with associated negative attributes, but for the most part, the signs describe us in positive ways and horoscopes provide us with positive outlooks on a wide variety of events. Aries are described as theoretical and positive. Scorpio’s are creative and passionate. Pisces are practical and intellectual.

Who wouldn’t like to think of themselves as a happy person, an intelligent person, or someone who inspires others? Star signs provide general traits that most people can cling on to.

As a Scorpio myself, I can look at the traits associated with the sign and feel a lot of solaces. I’m passionate, persistent, loyal and curious. However, I can also look at the traits associated with almost any other sign and say, “Hey, I’m honest and adventurous like a Sagitarrius,” or, “I’m ambitious and sensitive like a Capricorn.”

It is hard to imagine any sign where I couldn’t pick up one trait that I felt really defined me and resonate with the definition. 

Some people do insist that some signs would not fit them. They cannot imagine having a sign that represents sexual veracity, like Scorpio. Others cannot imagine the fragility associated with a Cancer. 

There may be a small argument here though that those who strongly invest in astrology do, to some extent, mold their personality to their sign. Someone who falls under Leo may have a nature towards humility but insist on pride because their daily horoscope says that’s their nature. When you constantly reinforce who you’re supposed to be, it’s only a matter of time before that’s who you actually become.

Ultimately, there are plenty of hobbies people have that are a lot more damaging than astrology. Even if astrology is not grounded in science and the parts of it that are grounded in history are incorrect, the impact of astrology is minimal.

Most of the time, the most harm that can come to a firm believer in zodiac signs and horoscopes is looking foolish in front of others. If people aren’t sure about the seriousness of your interest, they might consider your enthusiasm for simple-mindedness.

Astrology is not going to win any psychological awards for the accuracy or any Nobel-peace prizes, but if it reassures you about the things around you and helps you process through obstacles in your life, there is no reason to stop checking Co-Star every day.

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