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Family conflict over horopscopes

  1. Jan 13, 2008 #1
    I had a pretty big fight with my sister today about horoscopes. She is a pretty strong christian, and believes in all kinds of other weird stuff and energies, and of course, I took a few physics courses so i know better.

    anyways, she thinks that people born on the same day must share a lot of things in common because... of the horoscope, and the constellations of the stars and all that. My argument was that the constellations of stars in the outer space can only affect us by gravitation and some electromagnetic radiation. Now since the radius of earth's orbit around the sun is so tiny relative to these distant starts, treating it as a point should be a very good approximation, and hence all effects on us from the outer space should be constant at any time of the year. I mean, it could be that something drastic is going on in the outer space that DOES affect life here, but can it have a period of exactly one Earth year? That sounds so implausible to me...
    Now if the horoscope has also ties to positions of sun/moon/other planets, i still can't see how gravitation could affect a human being, magically fixing his characteristics somehow... I mean, we are just a bunch of atoms, and we are always oriented in random ways with respect to the sun, or moon, etc. just by facing different directions, and we even have the effect of earth rotating on it's axis, so on average, any bigger effects like that should cancel out.

    Naturally though, neither she, nor my family understood anything about my argument, and they now think that i'm just weird that way. Anyway, it sparked my interest, is there some physical phenomena that could explain horoscope?
     
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  3. Jan 13, 2008 #2

    mgb_phys

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    the constellations don't have any effect - the good way to test this is that since the horoscopes were defined a few thousand years ago they have moved on one position due to movements in the earth's orbit - ask the astrologer if they account for this, or even ask them which direction it changed!

    There have been studies which found possible coincidences - such as the majority of olympic athletes were born in the same few months. There was a suggestion that (assuming the same hemisphere) spednign your first 6 months wrapped up warm indoors or outside crawling around on the grass could shape your development.
    I don't think there was a big enough sample to test if athletes from the southern hemisphere were clustered 6 months later.
     
  4. Jan 13, 2008 #3

    nicksauce

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    Here's how horoscopes work:

    1) Make a blanket statement, such that no matter what it says the outcome will be true.
    2) Some people without critical thinking skills will be amazed
    3) ???
    4) Profit

    No physical phenomena, just good old fashioned manipulation.
     
  5. Jan 13, 2008 #4
    i agree with nicksauce

    if you look at a horoscope for ANY sign, even if its not your own, it is probably general enough to describe anyone. same thing with most fortune cookies. "You will meet someone new" ? as opposed to living under a rock and seeing the same people every day? Meeting someone new is a bit inevitable isnt it. Even in I am legend, will smith meets new people
     
  6. Jan 13, 2008 #5
    Why do you feel the need to get into a massive fight? Religion is based on faith, you can't disprove it with science, because a faith is not necessarily based on any scientific fact. What you are saying to her, means nothing. Firstly because as you said she doesn't understand it, and so you might aswell be talking in a different language and secondly, her beliefs may not be based on what yours are?

    As others have said, horoscopes are usually just blanket statements, that cover most people, and people who believe they hold any factual significance, are only looking for the bits that fit them, and not the one that don't, sometimes even exagerating their own impressions on who they are just to fit the reading.

    That aside, it really isn't going to help, talking about things she has no idea about. If she is a strong christian let her be.
     
  7. Jan 13, 2008 #6

    f95toli

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    It is might be good to remember that back when astrology was mainstream "science" people actually believed that the stars and the planets were VERY close to earth (kilometers, if that).
    Furthermore, some people (e.g. Paracelsus) believed that "fumes" (presumably gases etc) followed the stars and the planets around and that these fumes could affect both earth itself and the people on it (which is why it mattered when you were born). Hence, astrology was not so much about predicting the future as it was about understanding the effects of these fumes (or whatever you thought the effect was due to).
    It was also thought that these fumes could affect the minds of people, hence certain constellations would increase the risk of war because the combination of "fumes" would make the people more aggressive. Other combinations would cause plauges etc.

    Hence, there was no great "mystery" to why the stars and the planets had an affect events on earth; in many ways astrology made sense and there was nothing supernatural about it (which is why it was, for a long time, accepted by the Church).
    Furthermore, this worldview lead to a very "mechanistic" universe where there was always "natural" causes and effects. Only God could intervene and change the natural order of things.

    Philipp Ball has written an excellent biography of Paracelsus where he discusses this in some detail. Highly recommended!

    Modern horoscopes complettely misrepresent the "science" of astrology and tend to invoke supernatural explanations for why the planets and stars affect us. But this is a modern invention and has little to do with traditional astrology as practiced by e.g. Kepler and others.
     
  8. Jan 23, 2008 #7

    I think it would be interesting, to mix up the star signs, but keep the description, or prediction. It would be interesting to see how many people still felt they were accurate. i think it would be quite difficult to set it up though, as people would probably get what the experiment was about, so the results may not prove accurate.
     
  9. Jan 23, 2008 #8

    these are true but let me fill in number 3 which makes the whole astrology business not so easy to ignore:

    3) complex sociological and psychological conditioning factors cause an individual's personality traits and behaviors to converge on some of the general attributes of their astrological sign-


    "oh he is a sagitarius so tends to do his own thing" if heard and thought often enough will tend to cause a sagitarius to become more of an independent thinker- for example

    as with many occult concepts- they end up being 'true' because culture tends to reinforce them on many many subtle levels which directly modulates behavior in individuals
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2008
  10. Jan 23, 2008 #9

    CEL

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  11. Jan 23, 2008 #10

    russ_watters

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    Just saw this thread - it's ironic for a strongly religious person to believe in astrology. The superstition element is common to both, but most religions strictly forbid competing superstitions.
     
  12. Jan 23, 2008 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    Superstition is an an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear. Religious faith is a choice based on personal experiences and the claimed experiences of others.
     
  13. Jan 23, 2008 #12

    Evo

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    Don't forget that to the non-religious, belief in religion is an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear. To those that believe in things like astrology, it's a choice based on personal experiences and the claimed experiences of others.

    Basically, if it can't be scientifically proven, it's all the same. Superstition, faith, there is no difference.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2008
  14. Jan 23, 2008 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    I have religious faith but no fear. I am also fully aware of the arguments against faith. Also, faith is also something that requires effort; unlike fearing black cats or ladders.

    I guess if you are guided by fear and ignorance then it may apply. To assume that this is what drives everyone to believe in God is fallacious, ignorant, and arrogant at best.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2008
  15. Jan 23, 2008 #14

    Evo

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    But you're the one that chose those terms.

    Astrology in some cultures is equivalant to religion. To denounce their belief in the unscientific and unfounded while placing esteem on other unfounded, unscientific beliefs is not fair.

    How is believeing in a God(s) goddesses different than a belief in astrology?

    People that believe in astrology don't believe out of fear. They have faith in astrology. I don't see the difference.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2008
  16. Jan 23, 2008 #15

    siddharth

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    Regarding astrology, this made my day.
    :rofl:

    http://www.astrologicalmagazine.com/
     
  17. Jan 23, 2008 #16

    russ_watters

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    Not all religious people view their faith in the same way and that's fine. But the definition of "superstition" says nothing about fear. It just says 'ominous symbols'. Religion is chock full of them. In fact, the lack of fear is pretty much the entire point: they use fear to pull people in - since once you're in, you have nothing to fear from the apocalypse. But if you're not in, you're doomed.

    More generally, every one of the definitions of "superstition" applies to religion:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/superstition

    Evo is right - the philosophical bases of these belief systems are indistinguishable from each other.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2008
  18. Jan 24, 2008 #17

    Gokul43201

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    You mean something like these?



     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  19. Jan 26, 2008 #18
    I'm very skeptical of astrology and, in particular, horoscopes. The idea that the constellations could have any affect on us is completely ridiculous. I think it can largely be explained with the Forer effect.

    However, I've wondered if it's at all possible that, for other reasons, a person's birthday could somehow effect their personality. Their are many factors that could indeed have an unforeseen effect on a neonate imprinting with its environment. The length of day, the temperature, the general mood of people surrounding him/her during that time of year. I'm sure any effect would be mild, but you might be able to detect a statistical correlation if you looked. I'm not sure if their have been studies on these possibilities.
     
  20. Jan 26, 2008 #19

    Ivan Seeking

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    For one, the difference is that astrology does not enjoy the luxury of omnipotence. One can defeat any logical argument against the existence of God by using the definitions of God, but astrology can be tested and falsified. No such test can be applied to religion.

    This is why astrology is not a subject of philosophy, but the existence of God is a classic problem.

    There is also the problem that astrology does not produce claims of divine interventions or direct personal encounters with the divine. It is entirely dependent on interpretations of events and nebulous predictions. For example, the Catholics have a long history of documenting alleged miracles. They then use these as a basis for faith. The same cannot be said of astrology. At most it claims to be predictive, but not interventional. And coincidence can never be ruled out as an alternative explanation for any allegedly accurate prediction.

    Then of course we find millions or even hundreds of millions of people who will swear that accepting God into their life immediately changed their life - that their state of joy was vastly increased. Also, the history books are full of claims of profound religious experiences, including claims made by many scientists, but I have never heard of a profound or life changing astrological experience.

    In the end, there is a logical justification for having faith in God - based in part on how one chooses to interpret history and specific events - but there is no way to justify faith in astrology because it can be falsified.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2008
  21. Jan 26, 2008 #20
    Thanks for those links! I'm not really sure about the way in which these experiments are conducted though. Let's say that there was no bias in the person who asked the question, which in itself can be difficult to achieve. I just think that the fact that someone is asking you about the accuracy of astrology, would tend to suggest that enough people do not believe in it for the survey to take place, so will possibly raise doubt in the person taking the reading. If someone walked upto me and asked if a reading matched my personality, that would raise suspisions in my mind, as to what they were actually testing, and would lead me to believe there could be a possible bluff.
    It would be interesting to know what scale that survey was done on aswell, though I think it was more just a simple little test than a major survey in which people would analyise them and try and pull any truth out of it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
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