By Mark Mayberry
In our first article we provided an introduction to astrology. After having defined the subject, we examined the history, prevalence, and appeal of astrology. In this second article, we will see that astrology cannot pass the test of science.
There is no “real world” evidence that astrology works. All scientific efforts to confirm its power have failed. Scientists are agreed: Astrology is a pseudo-science! It is pure fiction. Several years ago some 18 Nobel Laureates and 172 other leading scientists joined together to express their vigorous objections to astrology.(1) Last year The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), released a statement saying, ‘Dozens of tests in recent years by scientists can find little, if any, evidence for astrological claims. Horoscopes have been shown under the most rigorous scientific analysis to fail completely in predicting future events.” The statement continued, “If the United States is to continue its leadership in scientific research, it is vital that the public have a clear understanding of the difference between science and pseudo-science, and that decisions be based on the real world without resorting to mystical fortune telling and other primitive forms of prognostication.”(2)
It Has Failed Repeated Attempts At Validation
1. Test by Carlson. “Study after study has failed to support claims that astrology can predict the future or offer insights into personality,” said Shawn Carlson, a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories in Berkeley, California. He added, “There is absolutely no merit to the basic claims that astrologers make.” Carlson made one of the most recent attempts to test the power of the stars. He asked 26 respected astrologers to match the personality profiles of 265 people with their astrological charts. They were right only about a third of the time, which is about the same as chance.(3)
2. Test by Barth & Bennett. James Barth and James Bennett, Economists at George Washington University, examined the horoscopes of tens of thousands of men who had reenlisted in the Marine Corps. They were looking for a trend among soldiers that favored astrological signs ruled by Mars, the god of war. However, they found instead an equal number of men who were born under the influence of Venus, the so-called planet of love.(4)
3. Test by Silverman. Psychologist Bernie Silverman of Michigan State University tested the effect of astrological compatibility on marriages. He surveyed astrologers across the country on the compatibility of the twelve Zodiac signs. In studying, 2,978 marriage and 478 divorce records in Michigan, Dr. Silverman found couples whose marriages were made in horoscope heaven united and split up just as frequently as those who were not astrologically compatible.(5)
4. Test by McGervey. In another experiment, physicist John McGervey of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio looked up the birthdays of 16,634 scientists listed in “American Men of Science” and 6,475 politicians named In “Who’s Who in American Politics.” Astrological theory would suggest that these non-average Americans would tend to cluster more among certain signs and certain personality types. However Dr. McGervey found as many Virgos, defined astrologically as weak leaders, as any other sign.(6)
5. Test by Culver. Astronomer Roger Culver of Colorado State University decided to determine whether astrological signs were related to such physical traits as bicep size, baldness, blood type, freckles, weight, neck size, etc. Were Leos more likely to go bald or Gemini to wind up ambidextrous? He found no trends among the 300 volunteers.(7)
6. Test by Gauquelin. The French psychologist Michel Gauquelin undertook a statistical test of personalities of people born under various signs of the zodiac. In this massive study, he listed 50,000 character traits that typified 16,000 famous people. Gauquelin then labeled each trait according to the appropriate astrological sign. One trait might be characteristic of a Leo, another of a Pisces, and so forth. Finally he looked to see which sign the person was actually born under. He found no correlation between personality traits and the sign a person was born under.(8)
7. Other Scientific Considerations. Astrology fails to adequately answer a number of other important questions. What is the mechanism the planets use to exert their influence over men? Supposedly we are affected by the gravitational pull of the heavenly bodies at the exact moment of our birth. However, this is absurd! At least this is the opinion of Andrew Fraknoi, executive officer of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco, an international scientific and educational organization. “The (gravitational) pull of the obstetrician is six times that of Mars,” said Fraknoi. He also pointed out that the hospital building in which a person is born has 500,000 times the gravitational pull of Mars.(9) So much for the supposed gravitational influence of the planets!
Another fact must also be pointed out. Everyone’s astrological “sign” is wrong! The Zodiac charts were set more than 2,000 years ago, but since then the position of the Earth relative to other heavenly bodies has shifted. The earth is spinning on its axis, wobbling like a top, completing one great loop every 26,000 years.(10) The constellations are no longer in the same relative viewing positions they were in when the Zodiac charts were devised. “In effect, all of the constellations have moved,” said Fraknoi. “This puts the signs of the Zodiac off by one whole sign.”(11) Astrologers have stuck with tradition, even though their maps of the heavens are out of step with reality. Thus, right now everybody is reading the wrong horoscope!
Its Claim to Analyze Character Is Deceptive
We are fascinated by astrology’s claim to be able to reveal a person’s character. However, the system is especially deceitful and manipulative in this regard. Astrologers tell people what they want to hear. This classic technique is used by salesman, hypnotists, advertising experts, and not a few preachers. Psychologist Ray Hyman said, “To be popular with your fellow man, tell him what he wants to hear. He wants to hear about himself. So tell him about himself. But not what you know to be true about him. Oh, no! Never tell him the truth. Rather, tell him what he would like to be true about himself!”(12) This is the key to manipulating other people. The human mind is more willing to accept what is would like to believe rather than what evidence indicates is the truth. As an example, Hyman cites the following astrological analysis:
Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other time you are introverted, wary and reserved. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do not accept others’ opinions without satisfactory proof. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety, and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. . . While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a strong need for other people to like you and for them to admire you.(13)
Sound familiar? Does it describe your personality in any way? This spiel was first used in 1948, composed mostly from a news stand astrology book. Statements that supposedly would describe people born under various signs were combined together. This pitch is designed to apply to everyone but not seem that way. In a controlled study, psychologists gave a group of college students a detailed psychological questionnaire and then made a detailed analysis of each student. They gave the students a copy of their customized analysis and a copy of the fake psychological sketch found above. The students were then asked to identify which was which. Fifty-nine percent of the student thought the fake sketch was a more accurate description of their personalities.(14)
It Fails to Accurately Predict the Future
1. Jeane Dixon. Astrology appeals to our curiosity by claiming to reveal the future. No astrologer is more famous in this regard than Mrs. Jeane Dixon. She has been the psychic star of the last generation, having made thousands of public and private predictions. Her many devout followers think that she has the power. Her critics argue that she is simply a lucky guesser. Jeane Dixon views herself as being divinely inspired. She is a devout Roman Catholic who freely mixes Christianity and the occult. Mrs. Dixon uses a crystal ball, a deck of cards, numerology, astrology, etc. to predict the future. She does, however, credit God with her prophetic powers. “The Holy Mother comes to me. God comes to me. He talks to me.”(15) She claims that her major predictions come from visions she receives as she faces east and recites the 23rd Psalm at sunrise each morning. They also come to her as she kneels before a statue of the Virgin Mary in St. Matthew’s Church in Washington, D C.(16)
Jeane Dixon’s predictions fall into four basic categories:
a. Statements go general and obvious that they cannot possibly be wrong. It took no spiritual gift to predict, as Mrs. Dixon did during the 1960s, that America would be torn by racial conflicts.
b. Statements that are open to a host of interpretations. in this regard, I am reminded of the ancient story of Croesus and the mythical Oracle of Delphi. Croesus, king of Lydia from 560-546 B.C., asked the oracle if he should attack the Persian Empire. The oracle replied that if Croesus did so a great empire would fall. He therefore attacked, was defeated, and lost his empire. Croesus sent a angry message to Delphi, complaining that the oracle had lied to him. The oracle slyly replied, “You didn’t ask which empire.”(17) Likewise, a great number of Mrs. Dixon’s declarations are vague and ambiguous. She cleverly states things so that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For example, her prediction that in 1963 education would be a fashionable topic of conversation was later said to be a prediction of the school integration crisis of that year.(18)
c. Statements that are dead wrong. An examination of her published prophecies reveals some astounding errors. For example, she said that “World War III will break in October, 1958.” “Red China will be admitted to the United Nations in 1959. ” “Richard Nixon will defeat John F. Kennedy in the election of 1960.” “President Charles de Gaulle will surrender his powers in 1964.” In speaking of the 1964 presidential contest between Johnson and Goldwater, she said, “The crystal ball shows a paper-thin majority for the Democratic slate.” Mrs. Dixon said, “No particularly new or brilliant legislation will be passed by Congress in 1965 (the year of Medicare, the poverty program, the Civil Rights Bill, the education bill, etc.).”(19)
Other predictions that misfired include the following: In 1954 she said, “By 1964 . . . one man – a swarthy skinned part Oriental – will rule the combined countries of Russia and China.” In 1955 Dixon said, “Walter Reuther [CIO President] will make his first bid for the Presidency in 1960, but will not win his heart’s desire until 1964.” On May 17, 1966, she was quoted in the New York Post concerning Fidel Castro: “My vibrations now tell me that he’s nowhere around. He’s either in China or he’s dead. I haven’t been able to pick up his vibrations in a week or two.”(20) Moreover, she prophesied that 1980 would see a great war with China that would devastate mankind.(21)
As you can see, not only are many of her predictions contradictory, but a startling number of them are dead wrong. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Dixon has created an escape route for herself, even when faced with failure. In such cases, she has said that she was shown the correct symbols, but acknowledges that she misinterpreted them. In other instances, she simply will not admit that she was wrong. She still claims that two Russian cosmonauts, a man and a woman, were killed in an attempted moon landing.
d. Statements that are nothing more than lucky guesses. Jeane Dixon has been in the public eye for over 30 years. Anyone who makes hundreds of predictions year after year will eventually get a few right. Yet, even here Mrs. Dixon does poorly. When closely scrutinized, her famous warning of John F. Kennedy’s assassination turns out to be less than awe inspiring. In 1952 she stated that “a young blue-eyed Democratic President elect in 1960 would be assassinated while in office.”(22) This warning was repeated by Mrs. Dixon in a 1956 article in Parade magazine.(23) However, this was the only public forecast of Kennedy’s death that she made. In fact, she later contradicted herself by predicting that Richard Nixon would win the 1960 elections. When he didn’t win, she sidestepped by saying that Nixon was the rightful winner, but the Democrats had stolen the election. In her annual New Year’s predictions for 1963 she said nothing about an assassination.(24)
It is a fact that Mrs. Dixon wrote in 1968 that a “wiretapping” scandal involving President Richard Nixon was “yet to come.” It is also true that she correctly predicted that Georgia governor Jimmy Carter would be elected president in 1976. However, both forecasts should be read in their entirety.
On October 21, 1968, the Washington Daily News published this statement by Mrs. Dixon: “A wiretapping scandal which I have predicted previously is yet to come. It will involve Richard Nixon, but will show him as a sincere man and will help his public image. . . The entire matter will affect Mr. Nixon favorably and would seem to put him in a position to right a great wrong, which would be for the good of the image of the United States.”(25) As everyone knows, the Watergate affair was a disaster for Richard Nixon. He was driven from office and resigned in shame.
Mrs. Dixon’s predictions for the 1976 presidential election appeared in the National Enquirer on March 30, 1976. By this point in his campaign, Carter’s candidacy was surging in the polls. She did not step out very far on a limb to predict that he would win. However, she did chance it: Mrs. Dixon confidently stated, “Jimmy Carter will become President of the United States after a photo-finish race against Ronald Reagan.”(26) As everyone knows, Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in 1976.
One of her most elaborate visions is of the coming of a new savior. Mrs. Dixon says that on February 5th, 1962, a child was born somewhere in the Middle East, who will one day unite all humanity into one all-embracing Christian religion by the year 1999.(27) On this date (February 5, 1962) five planets came together in a rare conjunction. Astrologers around the world predicted earth-shaking events for the occasion.(28) None came to pass. Those who trust the Bible know that Mrs. Dixon’s vision is unfounded and false. This is just another one of her harebrained predictions.
When all is said and done, Jeane Dixon is a person who likes to speculate about world affairs, as well as about the personal lives of her friends. She makes a prodigious number of predictions each year. Some are so vague that they are open to many interpretations. Many are dead wrong. A few are lucky guesses. If anyone makes enough guesses, some are bound to be right. So what? The only thing phenomenal about Mrs. Dixon is the amount of attention that she has been able to gather.
2. 1984 Conference. In December of 1983, psychics gathered in Jerusalem for the “First Multi-disciplinary Congress of Prognostication and Prediction for 1984.” The four-day assembly brought together 40 mystics from at least six countries. These prophets, who claimed to see the future in everything from palms to planets, predicted a turbulent 1984. The following predictions issued forth from this gathering: Ronald Reagan would not be re-elected to a second term. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would be killed in July or August. Syrian President Hafez Assad would also be assassinated. Syria was expected to attack Israel in the spring, touching off a new Middle East war. This would bring on the danger of an American-Soviet confrontation. One participant, Dr. Da Da of India, a yogi wearing an orange turban and robe, said that in 1984 another World War would begin in the Gulf states and continue until 1995. “At the end of the year 2,000, a new spiritual leader will emerge, like a messiah, and there will be peace,” he said .(29)
3. 1983 Conference. Some astrologers, soothsayers and exorcists gathered in November, 1983 for a two-day conference on ESP in Turin, Italy. They put their heads together and came up with the following predictions for 1984. Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy would be assassinated. A wave of unidentified flying objects were to arrive on Earth the following April. There would be notable advances in finding a cure for cancer. Two trains carrying radioactive waste would collide in West Germany, etc.(30)
4. 1979 Predictions. In the fall of 1980, the editors of The Skeptical Inquirer tabulated the predictions of 100 famous psychics for 1979. They listed the top 12 predictions in order of frequency, and then left the readers to judge the accuracy of these psychic visions of the future. The number one prediction of 1979 (made by 86 psychics) was “Longer lives will be had for almost everyone as aging is brought under control.” The second most frequent prediction (made by 85 psychics) was, “There will be a major break-through in cancer, which will almost totally wipe out the disease.” The third most frequent prediction (also made by 85 psychics) was, “There will be an astonishing spiritual rebirth and return to the old values.” And so on. The sixth most frequent prediction (81 psychics) was, “Contact will be made with aliens from space, who will give us incredible knowledge.”(31) Glory be! Marvels never cease!
5. Test by Culver & Ianna. The astronomers Rogers Culver and Philip Ianna checked the outcome of 3,011 specific predictions made during the past decade by well-known astrologers and astrological organizations. Ten percent came to pass.(32)
There is something pathetic, even desperate about such predictions. Psychics always forecast calamities, sickness, assassinations, and global disaster. Their focus is on the morbid, the outrageous, the unreal. Furthermore, they play the numbers game. If enough predictions are made, a few are bound to be right. People remember the correct guesses, and the wrong ones are forgotten. Few ever go back and check to see if the predictions came true. This gives the illusion that astrologists have clairvoyant powers. However, open investigation reveals that this illusion is false. Astrology cannot accurately predict the future.
In our final article, we will see how astrology fails the test of Scripture.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 18, pp. 560-563
September 20, 1990