I recently met someone who is a believer in astrology. She thought maybe she could predict my sign based on what little she knew about me, but was unable to. Then she wanted me to tell her my sign. I refused to tell her, because, based on my experience, when you tell a believer what your sign is, he or she will say the equivalent of “aha” and then retroactively come up with many reasons why that sign fits you perfectly.
In other words, there is nothing you can say that will sway the true believer. All answers lead to the pre-selected truth. Ask a true believer what it would take to change his or her mind and watch the difficulties this question produces. I can tell you exactly what it would take to change my mind on the truth of astrology. It would take several research studies published in highly reputable scientific journals – repeatable studies that are successfully duplicated showing a strong correlation between birthdate and personality.
To those who say such research would not be performed or published because of bias against it – I don’t buy that. Scientists absolutely love to overturn existing precepts. There is triumph, prestige, and Nobel prizes involved in earthshaking discoveries, and this would be one. If there’s a hint of reality in this well-known idea, someone would pursue it. It would come to light.
To those who say, “Science doesn’t have all the answers,” I say, “You’re right.” But if astrology shows a measurable effect in the real world, that’s something science would find. Science is, after all, just common sense made into a set of rules. Test the used car before buying it – that’s rudimentary science.<
To sum up my mini-rant:
1. On the one hand you have commonly understood features of the human mind: selective thinking, confirmation bias, wishful thinking, the Forer effect – these things can perfectly explain everything about astrology (not to mention tarot card reading, channeling, palm reading, ESP, faith healing, etc.).
2. On the other hand, you have a vague notion about the position of planets and stars influencing personality. No real explanation. Most importantly, after decades of research, there’s no good evidence to suggest a correlation between personality and birthdate.
Why would someone choose explanation #2? It’s like choosing to believe that the shoes you purchased at the store were made by little elves in elf-land. Next time I get onto this subject I’ll talk about why I care whether or not people get a moderately good grip on reality.