A professional astrologer realizes astrology isn’t real

Rudolf Smit

Rudolf Smit

Rudolf Smit loved astronomy as a child, and now he loves astrology… but he no longer believes it’s real.  There was a time when he was a full-time consulting astrologer and widely admired astrology author.  Founder of the Society of Practising Astrologers in the Netherlands and deeply passionate about a belief he found quite beautiful, Smit authored an astrology handbook and wrote popular articles for Dutch astrology publications like Earth & Cosmos and The Planets Speak.

The planets failed to reveal the shock that was to come.

In a moving autobiographical essay on his website Astrology and Science, Smit tells his story.  Born in 1942, he began to fall in love with astrology in the late 1960s, but not without a healthy dose of skepticism:

[I] bought myself a booklet about my Sun sign… [M]uch of what I read did for a great deal pertain to me. I was truly astonished… But at that point some skepticism crept in. What if I would buy all the other nine star sign booklets? I took a personal bet that after reading those booklets I would discover in each of them descriptions that would fit me. And indeed, so it occurred…

But then I happened to visit the parents of someone I knew…  Two days later I found in my mail a nicely drawn up horoscope… which made me feel flabbergasted. She had written things which were quite specific to my character and situation in life, and which she could not have known.

But I was still not fully convinced.  So I did something else: I sent my birth data to a well-known astrologer and asked him to write an analysis purely based on those data, hence without ever seeing me. Six weeks later I received his nicely structured, six-page description which fitted me miraculously well. I was elated and the die was cast: from now on astrology had me firmly in its grip!  This was the beginning of an exciting time.

Smit began casting horoscopes for himself and his friends, who were impressed with his accuracy.  This comes as no surprise today to those familiar with the now-famous Forer (or Barnum) Effect in psychology.

[T]here was that wonderful feeling…of having encountered a miracle…This was truly astonishing, and I felt elated.

He began taking clients and plunged into astrology as a profession:

A wonderful time followed. Everybody was full of optimism and felt that it would be only a matter of a few years before astrology was fully accepted by society.

One day, a very strange thing happened during a client session:

All seemed to go pretty well; she was nodding all the time while saying, “yes, yes, you are so right…”  But then I said something like: “well Ms Johnson, we….” She interrupted: ” Sorry, my name is Petersen, not Johnson.” I then experienced a terrible sinking feeling, because I then saw before me the horoscope of a Ms Johnson, but the person before me was surely not this Ms Johnson! Apparently I had taken the wrong chart from my file cabinet!

Truly, I have forgotten how I got myself out of this most embarrassing terrible mess, but apparently I had managed the situation pretty well, because she went away a happy client.

After seeing her out I sat in my study, confused thoughts racing through my mind. How is it possible to do a correct reading based on a wrong chart? Did not all textbooks tell us that a horoscope is unique, that is, only fitting its native and no one else? If so, how on earth could I have made correct delineations based on a totally wrong chart? I was completely puzzled.

But this was his life.  His livelihood.  His very human brain pushed away doubts sufficiently to allow him to practice for a while longer… but his early skepticism was returning.  Through the 1970s, he worked to examine systematically just how well horoscopes correlated with reality, desperately hoping to prove astrology worked:

It took me a number of years to carry out these projects. I succeeded, but to my great chagrin the test results were contrary to all hopeful expectations. One did not have to be a professional statistician to find out that many, if not all, statements in astrological text books, fell flat when tested on a great number of horoscopes.

For example, I tested the statement that in the charts of people who had died an accidental death, there would be a remarkable incidence of Progressed Ascendant to Mars, or of Progressed Mars to the Ascendant. Sure, there were a few (but the word says it all: a few), hence not an overwhelming number which could confirm the textbook statement. And so it went on and on.

Still, the love of his beloved practice remained strong, and Smit continued casting horoscopes until a fateful friendship began with another research-minded astrologer.  Geoffrey Dean, whose later work disproving astrology makes him well known today in skeptical circles, was speaking at an Australian astrology conference with Smit.  Dean gave Smit a draft paper of his to review, which impressed Smit with its objective, rigorous approach.  But his pleasure was soon shattered:

One chapter though gave me that terrible sinking feeling again.  Not because he had written something wrong, but because there was the sense of immediate awareness that he was so right! And that was the moment when the penny dropped. The sudden realisation how I had been doing my readings and why I had been so successful…

In this chapter Dean discussed about 20 factors that affect “personal validation” or the way a client personally assesses or validates an astrological reading… These factors included things like the Barnum effect (seeing specifics in generalities) and selective memory (ignoring errors), most of which I did recognise, that is, I had the strong feeling that indeed I myself had been a victim of most of them.

Smit then quotes from a chapter in Dean’s paper on “Cold Reading” about tricks not widely known in those days before the Internet.  It was a great shock to see these laid out so bluntly:

  1. Watch the eyes and hands for signs that they say yes and no.
  2. Make the reading happy and positive.
  3. Be a good listener.
  4. Loosen the client’s tongue with flattery.
  5. Discover the problem and then tell the client what she wants to hear…

Usually neither the reader nor the client is consciously aware of this communication process, which therefore can result in a reading that seems mysteriously perceptive.  The point is that a skilled cold reader can produce a totally convincing reading very similar to a chart reading (and probably more accurate) but without using a chart. In which case it cannot be claimed that astrology plays an essential part in the reading process.”

For Smit, those words struck a harsh blow.  It felt to him as if “the bottom had been kicked away from under” his existence.  He knew at that moment that his life’s work had been an illusion:

[Without] ever having been consciously aware of it, I had been an excellent cold reader… Now it also became devastatingly clear why I had had excellent sessions based on the totally wrong chart. Sympathy, cold reading, and the nice astrological symbolism had done the trick, not astrology itself.

There were more shocks to come.  Dean showed Smit letters from clients praising the accuracy of his horoscopes – “So true it is amazing!”  “You know me inside out!”   But Dean had stumbled upon the same discovery as Smit, causing him to give up his practice:

[I]n 1980 [Dean] found to his amazement that clients were just as happy with a reading that was the opposite of the authentic reading. Like me he had discovered that any chart would do provided the astrologer is sensitive and caring.

Smit was plunged into depression.  It took sizable strength of character to close his practice and start completely over in life.  His painful emotional struggle was eased somewhat when he learned he was not alone, that other honest astrologers had discovered the same phenomenon and given up their practice.  These included David Hamblin, one-time chair of the Astrology Association of Great Britain.  Ever the researcher, Smit now had to know…

…why astrology still exerts so much attraction to so many people. In other words, why do astrologers still go on believing whereas the evidence against it is mounting and mounting? …I conclude that astrologers go on believing because the apparent match between horoscope and client is such an extremely persuasive situation that it is easy for them to ignore every evidence against astrology — as indeed it seems they have always done…

Though no longer a believer, Smit remained drawn to astrology, conducting investigations as editor of Correlation – Journal of Objective Research into Astrology.  He is now retired from a career as editor and translator at a scientific and technological laboratory, and has created the website Astrology and Science as a research archive.

“[A]strology has undeniable appeal,” Smit writes, that “satisfies the longing… to feel part of the universe.”  I hope he’s remembered his childhood love of astronomy, and discovered how to satisfy that longing in ways that fulfill his truly courageous demand for truth.

76 thoughts on “A professional astrologer realizes astrology isn’t real

      • I agree. Rudolf seems a genuine and lovely person to me, and I’d like to see the skeptic community give him only kudos.

        A warm response will help more like him come out of the closet. If we reject such people with “Well what took him so long,” and their own community rejects them as well, that lessens the incentive to be open.

        It’s important, because astrology is much more popular than I suspect many of you realize, and… unbelievably… it’s growing.

        I’m happy to see he’s getting praise at Reddit.

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    • I see that, thanks.

      And thanks to my fave podcasters at Skeptics Guide to the Universe, for reblogging my post with the very nice title, What a great story!

      I’ve been blogging awhile and writing for Doubtful News and The Friendly Atheist, with great response. But I just started my Facebook and Twitter feeds yesterday, so please start following, folks, and give me a like on FB! Help me get out of the single digits, they look so sad. :(

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  1. Pingback: Stargazing: Astronomy, Astrology and Elvis | dyke writer

    • Don, it sounds more like Psychiatry, but at least Astrology doesn’t make up fake diagnoses & then prescribe very dangerous drugs that ultimately end up destroying the patients life!!!!!!!
      Psychiatry is quack medicine & all psychiatrists are nothing but snake oil salespeople!!!!!!!!!!!

      Liked by 2 people

    • As a scientist, I would suggest to you that it’s not a good idea to “believe in” science, but rather to accept those scientific theories which are supported by solid evidence. While our understanding of science improves all the time, this doesn’t mean that previously understood paradigms, backed by evidence, were necessarily wrong. For example, the discovery of quantum mechanics and relativity didn’t invalidate Newtonian mechanics; rather, it is understood to operate extremely well within a specific framework.
      Astrology, on the other hand, has *never* been supported by evidence, nor have there been any “paradigm shifts”, as there is no ongoing astrological research or new discoveries in the subject. As the gentleman in the story above realized, it’s a load of logical fallacies imposed on gullible people who choose not to bring rational thought to bear on the matter.

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  2. what is there to prove…could the most important things of life just all be about processes of changing consciousness and therefore using the horoscope as a mandala in that proces of clients who want to explore themselves…? …the essence of life in itself can never be proven in my opinion….

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  3. I managed to help you out of the single digits! (I have shared it on G+ too.) I wonder what the proportion is between astrologers who believe in it and those who know they are bluffing. Probably those who believe are better at it, while the bluffers safely can write horoscopes for newspapers and similar tasks. Among the bluffers there are probably a lot who don’t care about truth or not.

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  4. Excellent article and I agree it did take sizeable strength of character for him to admit it and change his way of life, so few people do, especially those still clinging to faith in the face of ever diminishing reasons to. I would imagine it to be the hardest thing in the world to admit that you have been that wrong for that long, most of us don’t own up to being wrong about the most trivial things in life. I can recall a time not that long ago, I’m sort of ashamed but not really to say, when a detailed horoscope had me convinced. What amazes me now was my almost total lack of critical skepticism, I don’t know what I was thinking. Quite common I suppose. Thanks for your blog it is well written and interesting. Mike

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    • Thanks for your kind words, Mike. And definitely no need to be ashamed of having once been drawn into these things. I suspect nearly all of us have passed through such a period. I know I did, and have a MOST embarrassing tale I’ll be posting about soon, as soon as I get up the nerve.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kyosti, that’s undoubtedly a great site for summarizing the case for astrology.

      The best analogy for this situation are pharmaceutical studies. Imagine a drug is found by a handful of small studies, done by companies who stand to profit from it, to have a very small positive effect. They send out a press release: “Our Drug Works! Buy It today!”

      It’s unfortunately far too common that later, independent researchers find that 1) the company also did studies showing NO effect that they discarded, 2) when ALL the studies are pooled in a meta-analysis, the small positive effects disappear.

      If a drug has no possible known mechanism that should allow it to work, even more, much more, is expected of responsible scientists conducting the study. They are expected to withhold declaring success unless any positive effect measured is significantly more than tiny. One does not announce an extraordinary new completely unexplainable mechanism not found by any other scientist in history, based on only ambiguous results, or small effects that could be due to experimental error. The effect must be clear and unambiguous in such cases. And most importantly, other experimenters must be able to reproduce the same significant effect. Until that happens, the scientific method holds that there can be no declaration of success. As the saying goes, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

      You expect that kind of responsibility from drug researchers, and those who don’t adhere to these ethics are considered at best incompetent and unscientific, at worst deceptive or even fraudulent.

      Yet, that’s the situation independent researchers have found with your list of astrology studies. It is way, way too premature for these researchers to announce success, to announce a force exerted by planets and stars on our bodies and destinies that would shatter all understanding of physics today.

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      • Very well put, Bo. I only wish we could tell that to, well, every homeopath on Earth… Since they spend all day, every day, declaring (and believing in ) what amounts to such extraordinary success, without ever properly examining any evidence. If only they would have some of the same insight, and any of the actual *concern*, about the validity of their “knowledge” which Rudolf has had about astrology.

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  5. From the original article, he didn’t really stop doing astrology. He just changed his approach. Also, he still misuses the term science.

    The pleasures of astrology re-visited
    I have learned to live with this sobering knowledge. And, in addition, I have set up my own website (Astrology-and-Science) which is a fountain of knowledge for all those people, astrologers and skeptics alike, who wish to know more about recent scientific findings about astrology. In contrast to what hostile skeptics do, we (that is, my collaborators and myself) do not ignore the good side of astrology. We simply supply the facts as they are. And as regards astrologers, we do not consider the great majority to be charlatans, since most astrologers tend to be nice people whose only sincere desire is to genuinely help their clients.

    As for me, after twenty odd years I have taken up again the reading of charts (now and then, that is), if only to experience again the wonderful feeling when such a reading turns out to be successful. However, I am not asking money for such sessions, and I tell my new “clients” in advance that I am offering them a Grand Illusion, which may be helpful nonetheless. If it is helpful, it is not because astrology itself is helpful, but because astrology sets a scene that helps me to be helpful.

    http://www.astrology-and-science.com/a-pass2.htm

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  7. I have been in the same situation myself and it does not mean astrology is not real, just that astrologers must be more careful. If you want to see the real truth behind astrology and what it is all about you can find out quite a bit at the link below. And yes, it is real science, but it is not easy. Psyche tests are very similar give someone the results from the wrong psyche test and see if they agree. I studied astrology for over thirty years and was going to quit it for the same reasons and then I decided to do some real science. Please do try to tear it apart. http://thecanadianinstituteforappliedastronomy.yolasite.com/flux-transfer-event–interplanetary.php

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    • “Applied Astronomy”? First question, Brian, before anyone spins their wheels: Are there any actual astronomers in this group? That is, who have advanced degrees from reputable universities in astronomy, and done astronomical research published in peer-reviewed astronomical journals? Or has the group co-opted the word “astronomy” as deceptive camouflage (which should pretty much make any interest in investigating their claims evaporate)?

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      • Myself and I have published many articles in many different venues. There is a soon to be published peer reviewed article on planetary aspects and earthquakes. You are the one with the camouflage on. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton to Sir Edmund Halley, “I have studied these things and you have not.”

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  8. Er, no, what he is describing isn’t astrology, it’s just the consulting business in general. All the same practices, cold reading etc, applies under other names to doctors (“bedside manner”), politicians (“populace stance”), economists (“business confidence”) etc, because that is what their jobs depend on.
    Little do non-astrologers know what astrology actually was and still is. The days of the week were named by astrologers, as were the months. We all use and pay homage to astrology every time we speak of a star, a planet, the name of the sun, any day of any week and any month; every time we cook and talk about herbs and spices; every time we celebrate any religious festival, whether it is Easter, Xmas, any saints day; and any time we watch a TV weather anchor doing a forecast, because all that was started by, and remained for hundreds of years the domain of astrologers. All weather words come from astrology, also many of words used by a doctor, because 300 years ago doctors had to be qualified astrologers, as also with the trades, like the masons.
    If you use mathematics at all, you are paying homage to developers of modern mathematics who were astrologers from India, Persia and then Egypt. The guy who invented calculus which eventually enabled man to get into space was an astrologer called Kepler. Astrology was taught in every European university for 400 years. Universities themselves were started in Arab countries under Islam to teach astrology. All the fathers of modern science were astrologers, like Galileo who was a professor of astrology and mathematics at Padua university, also Copernicus, also Sir Isaac Newton who studied under the astrologer Descartes. How do we think pyramids got built, back when all builders, designers and rulers were astrologers, if therefore not by astrologers?
    Every time you look at your watch you are paying homage to astrology. The man who built the Greenwich Observatory, which is the centre of world time, was an astrologer called Flamsteed. His horoscope wheel is embossed prominently on the side of the building, highly visible as you enter.
    Most of our daily life is rooted in astrological history. If you think astrology is something divorced from the above, that is only what sceptics say who know zilch about it. Sceptics are often mentally challenged bullies, who use an internet presence to deflect from their own personal problems about anger. It is easier to hate than listen to what you don’t want to hear, easier to lash blindly out at fearful shadows than to take time to investigate your gaps in understanding.
    If it wasn’t for astrology there would be no science, and we wouldn’t have computers and phones. Farming was very astrological, because seasons and the calendars to keep track of the seasons were the invention of astrologers. Any farmer is therefore an astrologer; end of story. The business of cold reading and telling fortunes is just that; a consulting business, like the priesthood. Some get comfort and some don’t. But it is not astrology as an astrologer knows it to be.

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    • This is how astrologers survive. By linking science…. by linking astronomy, by saying astronomy developed from astrology….

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  9. “Sceptics are often mentally challenged bullies, who use an internet presence to deflect from their own personal problems about anger.” Ad hominem attack is not welcome here. Astrology supporters are often bullies too, but what does this pointing this out prove? Nothing.

    Aside from the personal attack, your post is a stream of logical fallacy. Just because astrology pre-dates science doesn’t mean science-dependent practices today owe their existence to astrology, any more than we owe our health to misguided practices that pre-date modern medicine, like bloodletting, skull-drilling, and dosing with arsenic.

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    • No ad hominem because I did not name anyone. Nor did I name all. I said “many”. But if the cap fits, wear it. Astrologers seldom attack the sciences. But science mercilessly attacks astrology, probably because astrology always enjoys more far popularity without even trying. Not many science pages at the back of tabloids and not many scientists setting up booths at fairs. Very sorry, yes, I’m afraid modern doctors and sciences DO owe their profession to those who went before. Are you telling me you have no ancestors? Did you suddenly appear?

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      • Do not continue defending character attacks on skeptics on this blog if you wish to continue here. Either agree to stop or leave.

        Your main logical fallacies:

        1) You’re leaping to an unsubstantiated conclusion that an outdated practice was necessarily required to pave the way for the modern practices that followed it. Many outdated practices were obstacles to the practices that followed.

        One could make a good case that astrology, like religion, held back astronomy and the sciences, and delayed their benefits to society. Whether astrology was help or hindrance is not an easy question to answer, so we shouldn’t pretend to have that answer.

        2) A practice is not valid because it pre-dates a valid practice that came later. That’s just bizarre logic. Should we continue taking arsenic too just because it was a predecessor to modern medicine?

        3) An ancestral practice doesn’t mean we owe our existence to that practice. Some Americans’ ancestors practiced slavery. Do we all necessarily owe our existence to slavery? Is slavery valid because some of our ancestors practiced it?

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  10. Astrology isn’t about the predicting the future or the past. It doesn’t shape events or foretell them. It does however give you an idea of how you’d react in certain situations generally speaking, what your attitude tends towards. How you perceive the world around you. How you deal with challenges and experiences of everyday life. Your behavior in given circumstances. It won’t predict you coming into money or when so and so is going to die but it can predict pretty accurately how you would react to those things happening.

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    • But my reactions – as, I am sure, other people’s – have changed considerably throughout my life. I am sure some astrologer might associate that with my “progressed chart” and what not; I associate it with the simple fact that I have evolved (or devolved, whatever the case may be). Furthermore, my reactions to any given type of situation aren’t the always the same even within the same period of my life.

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  11. The reaction from the astrologers is very telling. No really good arguments, but of course the defector from the gang has every bad quality you may find.

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    • ingolfdahl… I have never ever heard of ANY astrologer start a reading without double checking the birth data. Once I started an astrology reading and discovered I made the chart for the correct day & place, but used 7:25pm instead of 7:25am. I apologized and re-scheduled.

      And for all that “cold reading” poppycock… I have done dozens and dozens of recorded readings before the invention of Skype, and mailed them to people w/o ever meeting them, or having any opportunity to watch hand movements, nods or all the other “cold reading” techniques, and they still found my readings accurate and pertinent to them in particular.

      What impresses me are people so certain that they have debunked astrology, but have never ever had a professional reading by a certified astrologer. (Yes… we have organizations that have 4 and 5 level certification programs. No, they have no ‘legal’ standing, but nevertheless, we are organized and are willing to stand behind our testing and certification procedures.)

      I wish so-called skeptics would actually investigate the things they want to debunk. It might make them respectable.

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      • aspicco,
        I thoroughly agree with you. People are fearful of what they don’t understand. That fear very easily turns to anger. The answer is not to attack astrologers for being different, but to listen to what astrologers actually say they are about. It is ALL science, which simply means investigative study.

        Liked by 2 people

      • kenmoonman, no one here is “fearful” and “attacking astrologers because they’re different.” That’s utter foolishness. You’re being challenged because you’re wrong, and taking money for false claims, claims that often hurt people.

        Aspicco, surprise, I have those same abilities as you!

        On an Internet discussion board a few years ago, I announced an experiment, made no claims about my abilities, and offered detailed readings to 40 people who who emailed me their birth info. All but one or two were “blown away by my accuracy,” were “moved to tears,” said they’d “never felt so deeply understood,” assured me I was clearly gifted, and offered me all kinds of money to do more,

        They all received the same reading.

        I didn’t make fun of them, but posted information about the Forer effect, which I explained we all are prone to.

        Aspicco, you’re rather studiously disregarding Smit’s key point about how the Forer effect works. It fills in beautifully even when you don’t have in-person contact to enable cold reading.

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        • Other than claiming you did it, do you have any records or proof? Did you save all this stuff?

          And what if you are actually psychic and oblivious to it? Maybe you DID give accurate readings to all those people

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  12. Astrology has deeply influenced every cultural and religious tradition of the world since ancient times, and it continues to do so even today. It is a definite part of human heritage, and affirmed by their most sacred traditions. To deny that would be the utter ignorance of mankind’s lasting philosophical insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Classic straw man argument to change the subject.

      No one denied that astrology loomed large in history and remains closely wedded to religion–for better or for worse. (I happen to believe it’s for the worse, as I’ve written about, with its perpetuation of harmful zodiac-based stereotypes and bigotries. Search on my tag “astrology”).

      What this post DOES discuss is persons’ claims that astrology is actually true. And that’s another subject entirely.

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  14. Astrology is meant for really, really dumb people who are really gullible and have low IQs. It’s good that Smit finally located his brain after wasting a good chunk of his life on something that only stupid people believe. People who believe in astrology generally have something missing from their lives. Most people call it intelligence.

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    • Since you, and you alone, brought up “IQ” (which HAS been undeniably disproved as a reliable measure of intelligence), let me tell you – with no empirical proof other than my word (but my word, even given to a stranger, does mean a lot to ME) – that the measured IQ of yours truly appears to be far closer to 200 than to 100 – and yet I have spent more than a decade trying to determine for myself whether astrology (among other para-sciences) works, even if I don’t understand HOW.
      I have found that is not all bunkum (though most of it, at least as presented by most of the currently active well-known astrologers, is). But that’s beside the point. The true measure of intelligence – or IQ, if you prefer – is the ability of keeping one’s mind open and think for oneself. Anything else is DOGMA, pure and simple – not a very promising indicator of IQ.

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  15. Astrology has been so undeniably disproved (as it already was hundreds of years ago) that it is hard to understand why people are still drawn to it. It staggers the mind that people actually believe in this nonsense.

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    • Having been a professional astrologer for 30+ years I have to disagree with you that “astrology has been so undeniably disproved.” It works. Always has worked. I am not vague in my readings. I am precise and accurate and my clients have affirmed my descriptions, comments and insights. There are many things that exist that science cannot prove, but that does not mean they do not exist. Science needs to ask the right questions.

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      • Scientific evidence involves being able to demonstrate the claims made under controlled conditions in a statistically significant way with a high degree of confidence. Astrology has failed at every attempt at this. Science doesn’t prove things. Science is a method of understanding reality that is based observations to verify or discount hypotheses. Astrology uses false hypotheses that have historically failed at every attempt at verification. Saying that science doesn’t ask the right questions is just a convenient way to avoid having to admit you’ve been wrong for 30 years. The fact is, you’ve been duped into supporting an obviously false system of learning.

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        • Science forgets that all of its measuring sticks are self created. Science has not managed to figure out how to measure things that do not fit its current limitations. If I only have a ruler that goes to 36″ and as a result it is difficult to measure a mile, that does not men the mile does not exist. What I am trying to say here is, although Science may be “a method of understanding reality that is based observations to verify or discount,” that is, in and of itself, very limiting. When you get into sub-atomic or quantum physics, the very act of observing alters the observation. My claim is that astrology exists and it works. Just because Science has yet to figure out how to measure it does not mean it doesn’t exist. 500 years ago we made up wild theories about things in order to understand how they functioned. As the centuries rolled on, Science got more aware and understanding. Science is still expanding, ergo, that is why I say “Science has yet to ask the right questions on many topics.”

          Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t forgotten for a moment that science is created by humans. But you seem to forget that astrology is as well. For example, dividing the ecliptic circle into twelve and putting people into each of these groups is entirely arbitrary; astrologers could just as easily have divided it into two or twenty groups.

          But you didn’t answer the question. What’s just one example of a question science hasn’t asked about astrology?

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  16. The discussion regarding astrology predicting cyclones and earthquakes is just plain nonsense. First of all, cyclones are cyclical events that occur annually. Fiji experiences severe cyclones every year in a highly predictable way and, historically, many of them have caused widespread destruction. So observing a major cyclone in Fiji hardly demonstrates that astrology has demonstrated anything other than the obvious.

    New Zealand is comprised of several volcanic islands with a high degree of seismic activity. Earthquakes occur frequently on the north island and a magnitude 5 earthquake is not uncommon. Claiming that astrology predicted the earthquake would be like claiming that astrology predicted that there would be rain in London sometime this week. Astrology is not a science. It is the antithesis of science.

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  17. Wow. You must be a very skilled scientist. Where did you study astronomy, solar physics, tidal dynamics, electromagnetism, volcanism and meteorology? You used all these things to predict cyclones and earthquakes? If this is true, you are a very special person indeed. My apologies for challenging you. I am a physicist and have studied physics all of my adult life, but I’ve never met anyone with your profound capabilities. My hat goes off to you sir.

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  18. What you have just described is what Richard Feynman called Cargo Cult Science. Wolfgang Pauli also had a saying for this type of thinking: “It’s not even wrong”.

    Sorry, junk science is just junk science and in your case it is transparently obvious.

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  19. I’m not sure what you mean by my brand of science. Science is science. Scientists are the most open minded people on earth. They have to be because most of science is counter-intuitive and often without precedent. The most interesting discoveries in science were fraught with notions that were virtually unbelievable at first – concepts like universal gravitation, relativity, quantum physics, quantum field theory, evolution. But they had one thing in common. They passed the test of scientific scrutiny. Many scientific discoveries that could not be verified by observation or couldn’t pass these basic tests fell by the wayside. History is full of them.

    I find it really hard to believe that any reasonable person in this day and age would say that meteorology has not progressed in 170 years because it didn’t embrace astrology. This is just complete nonsense. It’s impossible to predict weather far in advance because the equations that describe it are non-linear and invoke mathematical chaos. It’s not because science somehow formed a conspiracy against some concept or individual. This is really nutty.

    Let’s do a few simple tests. This shouldn’t be too hard for you given that you can do things that the greatest scientist in the world can’t seem to accomplish, like predict natural disasters in advance.

    1. Would you subject yourself to a couple of very simple introductory college physics problems? These should be very simple for you as you seem to have a remarkable ability in this area.

    2. Will you show me your diploma from a reputable university where you learned science so that you can demonstrate your credentials as a scientist?

    3. Provide to me the calculations that you undertook to predict, with pinpoint accuracy, the timing and severity of world events like the earthquake in New Zealand and cyclone in Fiji. Me and my colleagues offer to do the equivalent of a peer review of your calculations at no cost to you.

    Like

  20. So you claim your method is scientific and that you use scientific methods like astronomy, solar physics, tidal dynamics, electromagnetism, volcanism and meteorology in your predictions but you you are unable to answer even a simple question testing even an elementary knowledge in one of these areas.

    You claim to have expertise in these areas and apply them in a way that appear to surpass the abilities of any modern scientist in making predictions about weather and seismic events, yet you admit that you have not studied the underlying science.

    You make claims to be able to predict, with pinpoint accuracy the timing and magnitude of earthquakes and weather phenomena but you won’t allow a scientist to look at the method you used.

    You can call me a bully if you want, but when someone makes outlandish and unsupportable claims, I will challenge them. There have been hundreds of tests of the validity of astrology and there is not one single case where it has proven to be able to predict anything with a degree of accuracy that exceeds random chance. That is the bottom line.

    No need to respond.

    Like

  21. I have no interest in censoring you. I have no idea why your posts didn’t appear. It’s not my site. Go ahead and start a new thread if you want and feel free to re-post anything you’ve already stated. I’m happy to debate with you if you want to keep the discussion going.

    Like

  22. I will never confuse my Saturnine colleague with my Gemini one, and so on. This is at the most basic level. It also happens that certain generations born in certain years tend to be more successful than others, there is nothing strange about it. When it comes to a belief in astrology, i think the best answer is ‘I dunno’. its not black and white, start looking at the most basic level, isolate 1 or 2 key themes and verify.

    Like

  23. I think he abandoned his belief system too soon…and so extremely as to dismiss all of astrology just because he learned something new about himself. It’s like saying psychologists are just giving cold readings because so many psychological factors can apply to so many people because we all share a very similar make up. Anyone who is working with someone who is at a crossroads and possibly having an identity crisis knows that they may be pliable and agreeable at the moment, but they will quickly conclude whether or not your information was accurate or just mumbo jumbo. Furthermore, if I had to guess, I would say that his progressed chart or long term transits will probably show a major planetary or house shift that accounts for his shift in perspective. Still, the speed at which he threw in the towel is disappointing.

    Like

    • After a decade of very deep and profound investigation, it’s still “too soon” to evolve in one’s thinking? How long is the right amount in your opinion, Alicia?

      Not following your analogy to psychologists — in what way do they try to predict someone’s personality and life events based on a completely external mechanism with no known natural effect on a person?

      Like

  24. I am writing to thank you for this article and the comments that ensued. It has helped me refine some of my thinking regarding my profession. I am a professional astrologer and have been practicing full-time since 2013. Before that I was in academics as an English instructor at the university level for almost 17 years; my PhD is in English. My concentration was in Rhetoric and Composition and my deep interest is in narratives. This article and discussion is wonderfully rich with overt and embedded narratives that I have used to reflect on my own narrative and the narrative I share with the world at large, through my website, my Facebook page, my book, my tarot deck, and my business card.

    I stumbled upon this article quite by accident … or maybe not ;-). I was looking to make some changes to my website and decided to go to Google and type in “Professional Astrologer” and see who came up at the top and how they designed their website. This article was listed second in my search and I am always interested in transformation stories, especially ones that involve a crisis of identity, so I clicked on it and really enjoyed the story itself and how well Bo wrote it (as well as all of her responses).

    As I read through the article and all the comments a number of different pieces of information and positions about astrology and science stood out. I was especially caught by the discussion of the Forer effect. When I taught my critical thinking classes, I referenced it as the Barnum effect. I prefer the Barnum term for its connection to P. T. Barnum, I like the imagination of wonder connected to the circus that it stirs up because of that name connection to the concept. I was also interested in the 40 people selected for Bo’s experiment and was curious to know if she/you used a control group? If so, who comprised the group and how were they determined as appropriate for the control group. If not, why not? Did you happen to supply an astrological chart? Any one would do so long as you kept the calculating information hidden. Of course you could not do that with a professional astrologer. You would have to use our actual chart and then do a cold reading presenting yourself as an professional astrologer. Did you do that? That would be a very interesting experiment if you did not!

    This part of the discussion led me to think about the difference between a con man/woman/person and two people engaged in the Forer effect. With a con, only one person actually believes, and the con pretends to believe. In a Forer interchange both participants believe, and I think the distinction is interesting, but I am not sure if results in a different outcome for the person receiving the reading, especially if the con is very adept. However, I do think it matters what the content of the Forer experience happens to be, whether you lump astrology, tarot cards, palmistry, and so on all in the same category. What I mean is this. Suppose you have someone who is a smoker and they have access to and have read all the science on the hazards of smoking and the eventual outcomes thereof, but they keep smoking. Psychologically speaking, the science is simply not getting it done, at least in terms of convincing them to stop (neither are pleas from loved ones); I am sure the science is able to measure the destruction of their lungs just fine. Now, on a whim, this person decides to visit an astrologer or tarot card reader and they engage in a Barnum experience. While engaging in that experience – we will use a card reading – the client draws the mother of all tarot cards, you know the one … the Death card. They and the reader connect it to the smoking. The client leaves the session, goes to his or her car gets the pack of cigarettes and throws them in the trash and never smokes again. Now I understand science can explain all that has transpired without acknowledging any validity regarding astrology or tarot, but my point is that the context of the astrology and tarot is part of the requirement of the life changing moment. This is not really just a thought exercise.

    So as I was reading all this I did not have any particular epiphany; actually what I am about to write I have said often for years, even before I started doing this work professionally. Astrology is not science, not even a cosmic science. It is an art form that uses the science of astronomy creatively. And I am not really sure if I am satisfied with art form, but until I come up with a term or phrase I really think nails it, that’s what I will offer at this time. Oh, and let me add, it is not a psuedoscience either (once you stop trying to put in in the science category, pseudo part dies). I really wish my colleagues would stop wandering into the briar patch of trying to play on science’s playground. Everything not science wants to attach to science because science has such a phenomenal track record … the science of this or that; no wonder scientists get frustrated. But like art, what I do is powerful; it changes lives, for good or ill, just like anything, including science, that is applied or misapplied by human choice. I am not arguing that its power equals goodness, but neither do I accept that because its not science that means that it equals ill, which is why I practice my craft with a very well-developed skeptical background. The common ground that links us in conversation is the astronomy, the data points. Using a tropical astrology system (not sidereal, so not the constellations, sorry Ophiuchus) and the actual position of the points in the solar system, we can agree that Pluto happens to be moving through the sign of Capricorn at the time I am writing. Just that fact, no discussion of meaning. Its there, that’s where it is. If I go any farther, your eyes will start to roll. If I do, we are not discussing science any more, we are storytelling, but here’s the key point that I appreciate from this article and all the following comments. The story is framed a certain way because we are talking about Pluto and Capricorn and not Uranus and not Aries. There is a storytelling cohesiveness to astrology, tarot, and other spiritual practices or creative knowing. Hmm … creative knowing … need to roll that one around on the tongue a few more times. That cohesiveness is what allows astrology to persist and have such strong effects. And the ties to astronomy actually create additional boundaries; we do not “stick” Pluto wherever we feel like it. We operate within the actual constraint of how the Solar System moves. It’s’ where we can get “called out” within our field of work.

    There are many more places I would like to explore, but there is one that I do want to press. I am curious to know your scholarship in astrology. Even as a skeptic of pretty much everything, until I have spent some time exploring it by digging into the source material of the system of thought, I take the time to read the best of what another person considers important. In the case here, I am guessing that Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Stephen J. Gould and some other well-known and engaging philosophers and scientists would be on short list of people to read to appreciate skeptical and scientific thought. In astrology the names would include Richard Tarnas, Dane Rudyhar, Steven Arroyo, Robert Hand, and Steven Forrest. To dismiss the thoughts that go into astrology out-of-hand by relying totally on the Forer effect or targeting the daily horoscope would seem rather disingenuous. My understanding of skepticism is to dig in deep to a claim by looking at the strongest acclaimed positions and knowing them well enough to discuss them because you have read them even if you dislike them or consider them “foolish”. Maybe it’s not just skepticism, but courtesy.

    I hope that Mr. Smit is enjoying a happy and satisfying life. From what I might guess from the article, he likely did some very profound good in people’s lives as an astrologer even if he found the path no longer suited him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow… Thank you Mr. Young. After 30 years as an astrologer, this is one of the best put-together collection of comments. I have tried over the years to make the points you did, but you really laid it out clearly… thanks

      Like

    • “I am writing to thank you for this article and the comments that ensued. It has helped me refine some of my thinking regarding my profession. I am a professional astrologer and have been practicing full-time since 2013.”

      Thanks, Philip.

      “This article and discussion is wonderfully rich with overt and embedded narratives.”

      It is indeed!

      “I was also interested in the 40 people selected for Bo’s experiment and was curious to know if she/you used a control group? “

      Since my group received an identical fake reading of my group, the only possibility for a control group would be to receive an individualized professional chart. The results would simply be the same if the astrologer has a decent understanding of the psyche — these would also rated as accurate. So I’m not sure what additional info that gives you.

      As I said, it was an informal activity on a discussion forum. It was to make a point to fellow members there, not to be published as science. Others have published on this effect, including Forer himself.

      “Astrology is not science, not even a cosmic science. It is an art form that uses the science of astronomy creatively…I am not arguing that its power equals goodness, but neither do I accept that because its not science that means that it equals ill… we are not discussing science any more, we are storytelling… The common ground that links us in conversation is the astronomy, the data points. Using a tropical astrology system (not sidereal, so not the constellations, sorry Ophiuchus) and the actual position of the points in the solar system, we can agree that Pluto happens to be moving through the sign of Capricorn at the time I am writing. Just that fact, no discussion of meaning.”

      But what is a sign if it has no connection to the stars anymore? You acknowledge it’s simply a human construct. Some people centuries ago found twelve signs of equal length were easiest to fit on their calendar, and there it is. Yet tropical astrologers like yourself claim wrongly your work involves astronomy. Saying that Pluto has crossed an arbitrary line you made it up doesn’t make what you do “using the science of astronomy.” By claiming this, despite playing with semantics, you know your clients think this means they’re paying you for something science-based, which is false, and you allow it. and it puts you firmly in pseudoscience.

      Your profession knowingly allows people to assume mistakenly that Pisces and Sagitarrius are referring to the constellations of those names. Thus you mislead your followers into naturally assume your readings have a basis in some kind of natural truth, and don’t tell them it’s all made up. That to me is immensely deceptive; and deception too easily leads to real harm. How is this any different from an old-time snake oil salesman charging people for a substance whose contents he has lied about?

      And it’s immensely patronizing. How many people would keep going to their doctor if they learned he or she was just giving them penny sugar pills for the placebo effect, figuratively patting them on the head and saying, “Don’t worry, this pill will fix it. That will be $50.” It takes away the right of the client to know the truth of the service they’re paying for so they can make an informed decision on how much weight to give it. Believing you know what’s best for them so it’s okay to deceive them does not make it right. Especially when you’re taking their money for it, which may be money they then won’t have for a proven science-based service, like cognitive behavioral therapy. Even if they have the money, the fake treatment may discourage them from seeking real treatment. There are too many ways merchants of the placebo effect can do harm, however “artistic” you are about it. And even when there’s no active harm, the deception makes it simply unethical.

      “To dismiss the thoughts that go into astrology out-of-hand by relying totally on the Forer effect or targeting the daily horoscope would seem rather disingenuous… My understanding of skepticism is to dig in deep to a claim by looking at the strongest acclaimed positions and knowing them well enough to discuss them because you have read them even if you dislike them or consider them “foolish”. Maybe it’s not just skepticism, but courtesy.”

      And I don’t. I’ve read many studies of many aspects of astrology; links to many can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrology_and_science. You’ve drawn the wrong parallel; you don’t need a scholarly foundation in atheism to understand scientific tests of astrology, but one in science, which I have. Only trained scientists are professionally qualified to test any claims of astrology that have to do with the natural world, which includes our personalities. They have done so, and found the claims unsupported.

      You can claim Pluto symbolizes anything you want; that’s not a claim for science to concern itself with. But the moment you claim that Pluto’s location affects someone’s personality or environment, that’s a scientific claim only a scientist can test. They have, and it doesn’t.

      Do you believe scientists must first read books written by the world’s great snake-oil salesmen thinkers before they can merely test the oil itself and see if it does what’s claimed? Of course not.

      “I hope that Mr. Smit is enjoying a happy and satisfying life.”

      My impression from our conversations is that he genuinely is. Thanks for asking, and for commenting.

      Like

  25. Hey Bo,

    Thanks for responding so thoroughly, as you have done with all your other replies. I won’t be as thorough this time, but perhaps at a later date if time permits. Having some critical upheaval of the sort in the article in my personal life at the moment, but just in a different area of life. Still happy to be an astrologer today ;-).

    Regarding the control group question, I was wondering what would happen if the control group was professional astrologers and you were presenting yourself as one and if you could as effectively get the results you get from a group with or without an astrology chart that is intelligent but has no knowledge of astrology.

    The assignment of meaning for energy points (the planets, the Sun, the Moon and so on) is not arbitrary, but based on archetypes. Not scientifically consistent as water boiling at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but not willy-nilly so that I can say whatever I want.

    The snake oil and sugar pills do not match with what astrology is presenting, we are not suggesting that ingesting anything will lead to health benefits, which is great to test as you point out. I would appreciate a better comparison. BTW have you read “You Are the Placebo”? https://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Placebo-Making-Matter/dp/1401944590/. Maybe the sugar pill given to those using the power of belief actually does make the headache go away? Maybe some doctors prescribe too many pharmaceuticals?

    The signs are not attached to constellations is one direction astrology evolved, but again, its not whatever we, as practicing astrologers, arbitrarily want it to be. Reading the books would demonstrate how the logical consistency is built. A chart is an approximation of the layout of the solar system at the time of birth, using astronomical data in the frame of the tropical system.

    I cannot claim Pluto means anything I want it to. If I did, a little bit of research with astrology texts would cause a lot of problems for me just saying whatever I wanted to.

    My clients do not think they are paying for something science based; they think they are paying for something spiritually based. They go to the doctor, psychologists, and psychiatrists for the science based work; they see me for a spiritual experience. More often than not they have reached me because the science based experience has failed in some way or proved dissatisfying or is not giving them a meaning helps them. I am not the first place people start, I am usually the person they arrive at after trying all the other options.

    Hope you have had a great day and seen a rainbow, if not a unicorn :-).

    Philip

    Like

    • “My clients do not think they are paying for something science based; they think they are paying for something spiritually based. ”
      Ah, then it’s a religion. Do you inform them of this? There’s no point in throwing around astronomical data from nature if it’s actually supernatural… unless it’s to add a veneer of pseudoscientific respectability.

      Like

  26. Haha! The funniest article I have read for a long time! Either you went mad recently or you were a pretty useless astrologer. Try following your daily transits … again. I cannot believe that someone who has genuinely studied and practiced astrology can ever make an about turn. Thanks for making my day. You must be the first astrologer, ever, out of hundreds of thousands of them, to have ever changed his/her mind. Seriously.

    Like

    • I should remove this but won’t, to show how mean-spirited some can be about this. Mr. Smit told me he’s met and heard from many astrologers who have left the profession for similar reasons.

      Like

  27. Free unlock code for the lucky days software, please follow your own transits for a few weeks to see how misinformed you are. Apologies for being “mean spirited”, but I really cannot understand how someone can see the truth and then somehow not see it. Google lucky days software – unlock code 86216550

    Like

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