How Accurate are Horoscopes?
Let’s face it, there is something irresistibly tempting about the idea of having full control over your life. Who doesn’t want to always be one step ahead, right? Probably that’s why astrology in general and horoscopes, in particular, seem so appealing to many people. However, the question of “How accurate are horoscopes?” is always there, like the proverbial fly in the ointment.
Why is that?
Well, the thing is astrology has been a somewhat polarizing subject for years now. While some people treat it with great respect, others think it’s nothing short of a scam. And the funny thing is both sides have a point. Being literally as old as human history, astrology has developed a bad rep thanks to the army of phony “fortune tellers”. The gimmicky magazine horoscopes don’t make matters better at all.
But what if I told you that astrology and horoscopes as one of its instruments have a decent amount of legitimacy to them?
Don’t be too quick to judge: defending charlatanry isn’t what I’m going to do here. What I am going to do is some research. And I invite you to join me on this journey.
In this article:
Why is astrology not considered science?
Astrology in the historical context
What is this science that many don’t consider science at all? The ancient tradition considered it natural philosophy, or working philosophy. It won’t be wrong to say that it’s a kind of craft because it utilizes practical skills hard-nosed through ages.
Ancient astrologists unambiguously believed that astrology is science. What’s more, they were convinced that it’s an integral part of natural and formal sciences, along with astronomy and mathematics. So much so that often words such as “mathematician”, “astrologist” and “astronomer” were interchangeable. Astronomy as science owes its very existence and growth to astrological needs – the fact the modern astronomers don’t like to talk about.
It was just as strongly connected to medicine. It was believed that every doctor must have good knowledge of astrology to diagnose his patients, determine which medicines will work best, calculate perfect times for medical manipulations, etc. During the Medieval period, astrology was one of the disciplines to teach at Universities. Even Hippocrates said “A physician without a knowledge of Astrology has no right to call himself a physician”.
Why is it not science?
One of its weaknesses was its connection to Aristotle’s cosmology and physics. When Aristotle’s physics with its four elements as the foundation of the ancient vision of the world was sidestepped by Newton’s physics, the updated science stopped understanding how astrology works. And what can’t be reasonably explained by science, falls into obscurity.
Now it isn’t considered a science because it makes no use of scientific methods of learning. The astrological analysis itself is very subjective in nature and mostly relies on an astrologist’s intuition and not on scientific knowledge.
Yes, a small amount of astrological knowledge can be called scientific. It’s, first and foremost, the knowledge about the movement of heavenly bodies. The detailed classification of mental conditions, character, and behavior patterns can be, in a certain way, called scientific too. However, the scientific component of astrology is rather lacking.
Generally, to explain why it can’t be called science, they use the following arguments:
- It’s not testable. The expectations are often so imprecise and vague they can easily fall in with just about any result of the analysis.
- It’s not based on sound evidence. It’s not uncommon in science to change ideas when the evidence is proven to be weak. Astrology never does that, and more often than not, the evidence remains lacking.
- There is no consolidated astrological scientific community. Sharing, criticizing, continuity of scientific ideas is essential for the development of any branch of science. You don’t see many astrologers presenting their findings and works to the consideration of the scientific community.
- There are no astrological scientific discoveries and no active astrological research.
The difference between Science and Scientism
In 1975, the manifesto called “Objections to Astrology” saw publication in The Humanist. It was a statement signed by nearly 200 biggest names in science, including 18 Nobel award winners. In it, they condemned astrology as pseudoscience and expressed concern about the fact that mass media largely contributed to popularizing it.
This statement was criticized by other scientists, such as astronomer Carl Sagan and professor of Philosophy Paul Feyerabend. Both called the arguments offered by the manifesto weak, and Feyerabend went as far as comparing it to a witch hunt.
Science, the word borrowed from Latin, literally means “knowledge”. Doesn’t this mean that any area of knowledge is, in this way or another, science?
When it comes to view on astrology, it’s important to know the difference between science and scientism and not mistake one for another. Science, in a broader sense, is gaining, collection, analysis, and systematization of knowledge about the world around us.
On the flipside, scientism is an attempt to idealize science to the extreme. It’s the ideology of pure, all-encompassing, value-neutral science. Scientism focuses on natural and technical sciences and their methods, on precise mathematized natural philosophy. It applies scientific criteria to all kinds of human interactions with the world, all areas of knowledge, and even human communication. In other words, scientism renders the role of science absolute.
The main principles of scientism could be described as follows:
- science is the basis of progress and society’s survival;
- science has a full monopoly on truth;
- science has absolute explanatory power;
- scientific methods must be adopted through other cognition methods;
- all power must belong to scientific.
Sounds a tad extreme, isn’t it? The issue here is that scientism might have worked for machines but falls apart when it concerns humans. We as humans happen to be much more than cold rational mathematized logic and so it’s impossible for us to live guided by these criteria only and nothing else.
This is why the attempt to look at astrology from a purely scientific standpoint is inherently wrong.
Why Horoscopes resonate with some individuals but not with others
When criticizing astrology, people often refer to the daily (weekly, monthly, etc.) sign forecasts you can find in the majority of popular publications, both online and offline. They say that they are too vague, general and are basically a one-size-fits-all template.
And you know what? That’s an absolutely valid point. Horoscopes of this kind are more of a mindless entertainment than something that pretends to be a result of serious research. And they are mostly treated as such: a way to entertain yourself for a second.
But here’s the thing. These “predictions” have little to do with astrology. The problem with superficial newspaper horoscopes is not about astrology but mostly about people who call themselves astrologists and spew nonsense on a daily basis.
It’s because of this that astrology got its bad reputation and turned, in the mind of society, into a bunch of esoteric, occult practices. And that’s just something it’s not. It has never been, and is not, a magical instrument of fortune-telling. It was never supposed to be used for divining specific occurrences in every specific person’s life. Think about that.
Once again, the attempt to view all things from the scientistic position demanding that everything should be viewed through the lens of logic and mathematical objectivity is flawed. What about the arts? What about music and all kinds of creativity? how do you approach that with logic?
The way horoscopes resonate (or do not resonate) with you has nothing to do with your education. It has nothing to do with your affiliation with the science of lack thereof. Your level of scientific expertise doesn’t affect the way astrological horoscopes relate to your life and your personality.
In fact, horoscopes will most likely resonate with you if:
- You fully realize that all your actions and decisions, your mindset, and your system of values shape your relationships and your life events in a major way.
- You spend time self-reflecting and analyzing your words and actions on a regular basis.
- You are around 30 or older.
- You are a person who likes to think out of the box, take chances, and venture beyond your comfort zone. Someone with an active approach to life, willing to try everything life has to offer rather than p[assively sit around and wait for things happen to you.
- You are all about creativity.
- You realize that spirituality is just as important as logic.
- You’ve been through some traumatic experience which made you reevaluate things in your life and take a better look at what you are as a person.
On the other hand, if you still regard logic and linear scientific thinking as something of paramount importance, horoscopes will most likely leave you indifferent.
Michel Gauquelin findings
French psychologist Michel Gauquelin (1928-1991) was the most well-known, if not the first, researcher to delve deep into astrology statistics. It was truly one of his greatest passions and he dedicated most of his life to researching its various aspects.
What makes his research especially valuable is that it can’t be called biased. Michel Gauquelin was sincerely interested in the subject of his research and all he wanted was to get to the bottom of the issue using statistics.
Together with his wife, he conducted fundamental research. And this research has actually offered serious scientific proof of the effectiveness of astrology, even though the results of his research disagreed with traditional astrology on certain points.
In his research, Gauquelin used a reverse method by sampling people from certain professional groups and then looking for astrological pre-conditions. He and his wife analyzed worked in libraries and archives to create a database consisting of 27, 000 birthdays. All dates were sorted into separate professional groups: artists, military men, sportsmen, scientists, and so on. As his research progressed, Gauquelin thought he had found some correlation between a person’s character and the arrangement of the planets.
For example, among 3647 greatest scientists and doctors, 724 were born after the rise or culmination of Mars. There is only a single chance in 500, 000 for this to be accidental.
Among 3438 famous war leaders, 703 were born after the rise or culmination of Jupiter and 680 after the rise or culmination of Mars.
Among 2088 athletic champions, 452 were born after the rise or culmination of Mars.
Similar consistent patterns were discovered by Gauquelin for artists, politicians, writers, and journalists. However, as Gauquelin himself noted, this statistical irregularity manifested only for truly outstanding people. Statistical analysis of birthdays of regular representatives of professional groups didn’t show any variation from the norm.
Gauquelin was extremely confused by these results and decided to repeat his research, this time with other birthdays. He collected birth dates of 608 famous doctors… and got the same results.
Because his research sparkled a great deal of interest, Gauquelin performed another research, this time sampling not professional groups but people with certain traits. The results were even more convincing:
- Mars is dominant with those athletes Gauquelin calls “the champions of the steel morale”. They are the people with typically “Marcian” traits: energy, enthusiasm, competitiveness. At the same time, the effect of Mars doesn’t show with athletes who always take secondary prizes
- Mars and Saturn are dominant with people famous for their self-possession and endurance
- Jupiter is dominant with extravert actors but Saturn is dominant with introvert ones
And that’s not the end of it. Gauquelin continued his research and attempted to analyze the population in general. He compared over 15, 000 parent horoscopes with those of their children. The data he received showed their undeniable similarity.
The Difference between Accuracy and Precision
Since we are trying to answer the question of just how accurate horoscopes can be, it’s important to define accuracy. You see, they can be accurate but they can rarely be precise.
What’s the difference, you ask? After all, the words “accuracy” and “precision” have very similar meanings and are considered to be synonyms. The difference, however, is quite distinct. Here’s the picture to help you understand it better:
Imagine you play Darts. You’ve made a few attempts, but you keep hitting the same area in the top left corner of the board, far from the bullseye. You are quite precise, but not accurate.
After some training, you manage to hit several spots around the center of the board and even hit the bullseye a couple of times! Now you are quite accurate, but your precision is low.
But you are extremely persistent, because why not go the extra mile, right? You train some more and now you are quite capable of hitting the bullseye each time you throw a dart. You are both very precise and very accurate.
The bottom line is:
- Accuracy shows how close is an attribute to the standard value;
- Precision is how attributes correlate with each other, regardless of their accuracy.
Most Reliable Horoscopes
When it comes to reliable horoscopes, there’s one thing they all have to be: personal. It’s the personal approach, taking into account an individual’s personal characteristics and events in their life. This is what every astrologist works with.
Every horoscope is unique and this uniqueness is created not by a mindless collection of random attributes but by the way they correlate. An astrologist must not only know the descriptions and interpretation of each separate element but also be able to combine them, synthesizing their influence. This is the job that only an individual astrologist can do, someone who relies on their experience.
More often than not, astrologists have to apply their entire baggage of knowledge to be able to lay down the entire chain of events and all the facts in the personal horoscope. Many variables make working on a personal chart rather challenging and complex.
This uniqueness, this level of personal approach isn’t something you can expect from those daily, weekly, or Zodiac sign forecasts you can find in so many magazines. If you do want a reliable horoscope, get a personal natal chart. If accuracy and reliability is something that’s really important to you, you can order a detailed natal chart at Astromix.net.
What is a natal chart really? It’s a celestial map as it was at the moment of a person’s birth, based on the place of this person’s birth. The time of birth is extremely important: Earth moves fast and so the star map changes rapidly as well. The place of birth is no less important because the way the star map looks depends on longitude and latitude. This is exactly why people who were born on the same day often have very different natal charts.
This is why before starting to analyze a personal horoscope, a professional astrologist must be absolutely sure about the accuracy of the background information.
But what if you don’t know the exact time of your birth? Well, in that case, an astrologist has to do some research and calculate it.
How do they do it? As you know, astrology is a practical science used both for characterizing people and creating a forecast. And if an astrologist can use the background information to describe a person and make a forecast, trust me, they can do the reverse as well. What I mean is they can use information about your character, appearance, and events in your life to calculate the exact time of your birth. This is what astrologists call rectification.
But What About the Newspaper Horoscopes?
Horoscopes have long ago become a part of our everyday lives. They are like that background buzz we are so much accustomed to hearing. We hardly ever pay much attention to the horoscope-related sections in magazines and newspapers. Morning show hosts include them in their program as a kind of filler. But does this have anything to do with astrology?
What we habitually call horoscopes are, in fact, anything but. They are to astrology what self-suggestion is to medicine. A horoscope is a complex chart, a scheme showing an arrangement of planets fixed in time. There is one for everything if you know the exact time and place of its or their appearance.
The newspaper horoscopes, on the other hand, have nothing to do with astrology, with the exception of some terms they use. In the best-case scenario, they are created by beginner astrologists. They are trying hard to find something in common for thousands of people born in different parts of the planet, people of all genders, races, ages, social statuses but having the same Zodiac sign. Guess what level of accuracy you can get in this case.
Taking into account that newspaper format requires these “predictions” to be very short (I’ve seen one-liner horoscopes), this is nothing but a sham. This is why professional astrologists don’t do this. Newspaper and TV channel interns do.
Professional astrology is complex and requires many years of studying and research, extensive knowledge, and a high level of education. A practicing astrologist is in many ways like a practicing physician. Just as modern medicine can’t cure all diseases, modern astrology can’t master every forecast. Just as a doctor might need more information and tests to make an accurate diagnosis, an astrologist needs additional information to create an accurate horoscope. Sure, both can be mistaken in their opinions. But both use the experience to make the right conclusions.
Astrology is a complex, multi-faceted, challenging area of knowledge. Everyone who thinks that newspaper horoscopes are the real thing should remember that outstanding astrologists have always been the most prominent brilliant minds of their time. Scientists with encyclopedic knowledge, with expertise in multiple areas of science. They are the father of medicine Hippocrates, astronomers Ptolemy, Kepler, Tyge Brahe, physicist Newton.
Don’t think that this world has become simpler since their times. This area of knowledge is still challenging and complex both in terms of researching and in terms of application. That is why practicing astrologers are few. Remember this when you next time decide to read a two-sentence newspaper “horoscope”.