VICE defends astrology, selling it by saying it’s hated by “straight men”

It’s odd that any respectable media would defend astrology these days, since there’s no evidence for a correlation of birth sign with personality (a comprehensive double-blind test published in Nature in 1985 showed that pretty definitively). In many ways astrology is like religion: they’re both based on faith, there’s no evidence for their overweening truth claims, there’s no known mechanism for their operation, both are believed ardently by many adherents, and lots of people make their living pushing both palpably false doctrines.

Astrology resembles religion in another way, too: a higher percentage of women than of men are religious, and a higher percentage of women than men believe in astrology. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but, like religion, astrology might create a sense of community that somehow appeals more to women than men. (I have no idea whether this is a socialized trait, the result of an evolved difference in men’s versus women’s brains, or a combination of both). As VICE notes (see below), studies show that “women are more empathic and men more analytical,” but I’m not sure whether this explains the sex difference in religiosity and astrology-belief.

You can defend the institution of religion, as even some atheists like John Gray do, but it’s harder for people to defend astrology. I suspect it’s because astrology is not such a heavily institutionalized form of delusion, and because people are more open to empirical refutations of astrology than they are of religion. Astrology, for some reason, seems more susceptible to empirical refutation of its claims, though religion’s truth claims are by no means immune to refutation.

Although newspapers often publish astrology columns, which annoys me since it’s really a form of woo rather than pure entertainment (confess: don’t you look at them and look up your birth sign to see if the prognostication matches your life? Even I do that!), they don’t defend it in their articles. But the following piece by Hannah Ewens in VICE does (click on screenshot).

Ewens is Features Editor for VICE UK and describes herself like this: “I write about youth culture, mental health, film and rock/alternative music. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about female sexuality, fandom and teenage years.”

First, let us note that this is indeed a defense of astrology, as author Ewens confesses at the end:

Personally, a vague interest I’d had in astrology since I was a kid was solidified once I did my birth chart and found it to be eerily accurate. As soon as conflicting deadlines strike in tandem with my rising anxiety levels, and if I’ve not been looking after myself properly, I notice I’m checking astrology apps and podcasts more. But without that initial “in” I’d never have gone down the rabbit hole. It’s just about the entry point and who gets there.

She doesn’t mention that astrology’s claims are totally bogus.

The rest of the article is, as the title implies, an assertion that women and gay males like astrology more than do straight males, and an attempt to find out why. The title, while implying a denigration of maleness and cis-sexuality, is really just a social-justice hook to justify its defense of astrology.

But do straight men really hate astrology more than women, or more than gay men?

Well, the answer to the first question is “sort of”, though we’re talking just about men versus women here, without mention of cis-sexuality. As VICE notes, paralleling other data:

. . . straight men seem to be frequently apathetic or adverse to astrology. In a 2005 Gallup UK poll, just over twice as many women in the UK believed in astrology compared to men (30 percent to 14 percent of a data pool of 1,010 people). A 2017 study by Pew Research Centre found that 20 percent of adult men in the US believed in astrology, compared to 37 percent of women.

Note that this is just men versus women. No mention of gay men vs. straight men. That’s a deliberate journalistic evasion of her thesis.

Ewens gratuitously buttresses the sex difference by giving lots of anecdotes of men who were driven bonkers by their girlfriends’ intense interest in astrology. That adds nothing to the survey data. And note again that these data say nothing about straight men vs. gay men. Indeed, NO data in the entire article show that gay men are less averse to astrology than straight men. That assertion is simply made by two astrologers:

 Jessica Lanyadoo, who hosts Ghost Of A Podcast, said, “I know lots of cis straight male astrologers, but not as many cis straight male astrology fans.” Astrologer Randon Rosenbohm agrees, telling me “it’s for girls and gays”.

“Astrology is a natural, intuitive way of telling time, and women are more in tune with nature,” Randon continues. “Men, however, are builders who work with the material world. Unless you give a straight man evidence of astrology being real, they’re less likely to find it remotely interesting.”

That’s not very convincing, and represents the totality of the evidence. Perhaps Ewens is right, but she doesn’t support her thesis.

Although the article is more about sex- (and supposed sexual-orientation-) differences in astrology acceptance than about social justice, there is one paragraph implying that straight men’s aversion to astrology rests in some way on a patriarchy that stresses out women and gay men more than it does the cis-sexual men:

To understand your and others’ personalities, to try to predict the future: ultimately, it’s grasping for control, when we have none. Women and queer people are drawn to astrology because it offers community and refuge, something to lean on during a time in which religion has taken a backseat. In a heterosexual patriarchy, cis-het men arguably have less to seek refuge from. It is during times of significant stress that people turn to astrology, after all. In a 1982 study, the psychologist Graham Tyson found that people who consult astrologers did so in response to stressors, writing, “Under conditions of high stress, the individual is prepared to use astrology as a coping device, even though under low-stress conditions he does not believe in it.”

Well, fine, but first support your thesis about homosexuality before you start explaining it.

I’m not as much interested in going after astrology as I am religion, for the latter is far more harmful. But let it be noted that astrology may have a carryover effect on other forms of irrationality, for at bottom it depends on a faith in something that is palpably false. The sad and irresponsible aspect of Ewens’s piece is that it doesn’t address the falsity of astrology, and also makes claims that aren’t supported: namely that gay men, like women, are more sympathetic to astrology than are straight men. Finally, its failure to give the data that astrology is bunk, but rather justifies people’s reliance on the stars, is a gross failure of responsible journalism. Does VICE really want to throw truth under the bus in service of woo, implied sexism, and implied misogyny?

h/t: Grania

96 Comments

  1. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Got over astrology when a high school science teacher pointed out it was based on the Ptolmaic system.

  2. GBJames
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    sub

  3. Sastra
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Astrology has another thing in common with religion: it reinforces the common intuition that our human cares and concerns are of central interest to the entire cosmos. When it’s looked at seriously, it entails a very large, very significant supernatural vision of what reality is and how it works.

    But, proponents say, science can’t and shouldn’t be used to examine it (unless it supports it.) It feeds the whole anti-intellectual alternative model of reality ideal which got us into our current political mess.

    As for it not having political power — look at India. Even scientists and technicians regularly use it and not for “entertainment purposes.” Belief in astrology permeates the culture, and there are regular attempts to have it taught in universities.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      And not just India. My son-in-law, who is a civil engineer, worked at one time in Burma, and on his first job was disconcerted to learn from the locals that construction could be allowed to begin only on a suitably auspicious day.

      Fortunately, there were two or three of these a week.

    • goghingwilde
      Posted December 7, 2018 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Actually, astrology most definitely does NOT think the cosmos have a KNOWING influence on people at all. People being affected by their surroundings does not mean that ‘human cares and concerns are of central interest to the entire cosmos.’

      It is also untrue that ‘proponents say science can’t and shouldn’t be used to examine it unless it supports it’- in fact there have been a lot of pushes for people to study the mechanism behind it- but few scientists are willing to study something that a)has no monetary compensation for their research b)is seen by the majority of the scientific community as a joke.

      The theories behind the mechanism for astrological influences are varied- but the main one I see again and again is that it is related to gravitational pulls/influences on earth/planets/sun.

      So look at the sun- it has certain patterns of sunspots and magnetic activity that spikes or wanes in correlation with planetary positions in a very predictable pattern. When there are sunspots there is a magnetic field flux happening. This magnetic field flux is very powerful, and on a magnetic level we feel that influence- there are even studies on sunspots influences on human behavior/weather phenomena/magnetic disturbances on earth. They’ve noticed that schizophrenia is more likely to happen to people born in certain months than other, and same for bipolar disorder (and that the timing of these seems to be switched between the northern and southern hemispheres.)

      To me, I’ve seen patterns emerge in human behavior/base personality traits – and it correlates with astrological data/analysis at a rate that goes beyond coincidence, to me- and thus I believe that on some level our body forms its own sort of ‘rhythm’ that is very similar to a circadian rhythm. To me, I think it is based on magnetic field disruptions,radioactive influences, electromagnetic fields, solar disturbances, seasonal changes, temperature, and planetary magnetic conjunctions affecting you as you develop on a very base level.

      All these influences combined form a certain pattern/rhythm to you that makes you more likely to show certain traits, more susceptible to certain magnetic disturbances etc.

      As for people being able to ‘predict things’ about you and your actions with astrology- that I think of like people who look at your dna/test for genetic markers indicating the likelihood that you’ll develop, say, cancer. It’s not a guarantee of anything- more a ‘people who have this certain pattern in them are statistically more likely to exhibit the following symptoms.’ To me, astrology is just the analysis of repeated ‘symptoms’/’outcomes’ witnessed in populations.

      Do we fully understand what the mechanisms would be for this rhythm to be set? No we don’t- but that doesn’t stop up from being able to analyze certain behavioral patterns that emerge in populations.

      We don’t fully understand the mechanism for MUCH of this world- but that doesn’t make the phenomena witnessed any less ‘real’. When astrologers are analyzing the movement of planets and their influences on people with these ‘rhythms’ I think of it like a personalized weather prediction- they can tell ‘it’s like 70% gonna rain on you today’ but that’s only a prediction based on their data- and can only be so accurate on something that has much less data, and next to nothing to visually analyze. I mean, weather forecasts, which are fairly simple witnessable science- are only 80% accurate- but you expect 100% accuracy of astrology predictions of human behavior/influences?

      I also feel that most people who outright dismiss astrology know next to nothing about it. The whole ‘what’s your sign’ thing? It’s ridiculously oversimplified, but it’s typically all a person knows about astrology. In astrology your own personal chart is a unique combination of 13 different influences, as well as different degrees of these influences- Saying you know everything about a person from their birthday is like if you had a 13 digit password- but you only known the first digit- but you say you ‘know their password.’ The odds of someone else having your same astrological chart is ≤3/7,125,000,000. That is much more individualized than the 1/12 people have the SAME PERSONALITY tripe we hear.

      Anyways, that’s my two cents

      • Posted December 8, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        You don’t have to look for a mechanism if the phenomenon (correlation of personality and behavior with birth sign) doesn’t exist. Numerous studies have shown that astrology cannot predict these things at a rate higher than random chance. You are simply a believer, like a religious believer, accepting this kind of woo WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE FOR IT. You raise all kinds of possibilities, like sunspots and fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field, but if the phenomenon doesn’t occur in the first place, there’s no need to look for these things.

        You say “few scientists are willing to study it”, but they have, and your ignorance of those studies, and their negative results, indicates that the rest of your post is pretty much nonsense.

      • Sastra
        Posted December 8, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Actually, astrology most definitely does NOT think the cosmos have a KNOWING influence on people at all. People being affected by their surroundings does not mean that ‘human cares and concerns are of central interest to the entire cosmos.’

        When ‘physical’ forces are directly connected to or influenced by personality and/or morality, that’s where the mind-like sensitivity comes in. It’s not “people being affected by their surroundings “ per se, but *how* they’re being affected by their surroundings — and how *they* are affecting them.

        To use an extreme hypothetical example, consider a special gravity-like force which keeps good people from falling off cliffs, but isn’t involved in preventing bad people from doing so. The very human concerns of character and justice are being recognized by what’s supposed to be a material force. This force doesn’t have to be conscious to be said to have a suspiciously mindlike “interest” in what is going on at a macro level. Astrology is similar.

        Skeptic Ray Hyman has a famous dictum: before you look for an explanation, make sure there’s something to be explained. I’ll second him and Jerry: you’re wrong about the evidence.

        … but few scientists are willing to study something that a)has no monetary compensation for their research b)is seen by the majority of the scientific community as a joke.

        Are you kidding?? Physicists uninterested in discovering a major form of energy which would blow the entire cosmic model wide open?? No money and fame for the scientific breakthrough in physics which would rival the theory of evolution and generate new theories and unheard of applications? The lean, mean, hungry scientists looking for excitement are all going to ignore what you claim is great evidence because it has “no monetary compensation”(pish— money always follows) and they don’t want to be snickered at a bit on their way to total vindication and an untapped area of astonishment and fun?

        Surely you jest.

      • Posted December 8, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        There’s a pattern in comments like this. They often call for scientists to study their “theory” but they don’t want to do the science themselves. If you believe in astrology and think that it can be shown to have some truth, prove it yourself. Scientific methods aren’t that hard to learn. Practically every college teaches them and there are many, many books on the subject. If you or a fellow believer aren’t willing to do this, then what you have is a hunch, not a theory, and it has worth only to you.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 8, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          +1

        • rickflick
          Posted December 8, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          Come to think of it, ID is also nothing more than a hunch. Well put.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Women are socialized and praised for being good girls. It’s why when we hit puberty we feel ugly and bad. We internalize everything. It’s therefore much more difficult for women to take risks and offend others. It’s much easier to conform and conformity takes the form often if religion and other social compliance. It takes a lot of will power to go against all this so many women don’t.

    • Taz
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Does adolescent awkwardness really differentiate between boys and girls? I certainly had a rough time.

      The suicide rate is higher among boys than girls.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 18, 2018 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

          they are more likely to use methods that are less immediately lethal

          What are the odds of that having been used as an argument in favour of improved changed gun access laws, specifically laws to encourage (if not mandate) ownership of guns by women?
          Pretty close to 100%, I suspect. And high in the 90s of % that the argument was made from a pulpit. Because the idiocies of gun-ownership and of religion are such a good fit for each other.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        I’m talking specifically about confidence and risk taking. It is also interesting to note that suicide has increased for all young people but for girls, it has increased by 200% so, yes, there is something different happening for girls.

        http://time.com/4304621/suicide-rate-cdc-women/

        What I say about praise of girls for being good comes from Dweck’s studies of mindset. Here is an excerpt from psychology today:

        girls and boys develop different views about what they can accomplish, and that difference is often rooted in the way girls and boys are praised. Girls are frequently praised for being “good” or “smart” (i.e., for their ability) and boys are often praised for “trying hard” (i.e., for their effort). Being told you “did good” on an activity doesn’t give you a blueprint for success replication, which is one reason why schools are now catching up with what the science says. In order to duplicate a success, effective praise must name the specific strategy, effort, or skill that led to the good outcome.

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pressure-proof/201201/the-challenge-smart-girlsand-smart-women

        What is interesting is once girls are challenged and they’ve developed a mindset that avoids risk, they tend to internalize set backs. They also seem to obsess over social media more than boys. All this makes speaking out much more dangerous to girls and women. It is much harder to take a risk and fail.

        So you tend to see women in roles of social control – the cutters in FGM, the Trump supporters, the ones that criticized women who keep their names etc. These are the good girls. The girls praised for going along with tradition. They are less likely to question religion or authority.

        Women like me are the bad girls. We are the girls who weren’t always praised to be good girls but to be riskier. We are more likely to question authority but there are less of us. But even for me personally that was a long road. I was a life long atheist but in the closet. And I recently found a Univeristy paper that read like many of them. It said “A+ a pleasure to read but you must speak up!” I told my manager about it. I said “imagine me like that now. So many want me to shut up now”.

        • Taz
          Posted November 18, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          Here’s a more recent Time article talking about the higher increase in suicides among girls: Suicide Rate for Teen Girls Hits 40-Year High

          This is the third paragraph:

          While the suicide rate fell in 2007—3.7 to 2.4 per 100,000 girls and 18.1 to 10.8 per 100,000 boys—it spiked again in 2015 to 5.1 per 100,000 girls and 14.2 per 100,000 boys. To put it another way: In 2015, 5 girls per 100,000 committed suicide compared to 14 boys.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

            So? I never said boys don’t commit suicide or that girls commit suicide more. I did say it has increased by 200% for girls, which indicates there is something going on with girls. It has also increased much more than boys by at least 3x.

            Honestly, I’m not sure what your argument is here. Are you suggesting girls and boys are exactly the same, raised the same, same pressures in society etc. So the reason for women staying with religion is just something else? Because then I see on here ad nauseas that women are very different and that’s why the dears just don’t want to go I to STEM.

            Frankly, I’m tired of the whataboutery every time I come here to try to offer an explanation for why girls and women are the why they are. Each and every time there is the out cry, “what about the boys!?” Well I wasn’t talking about the boys. From now on, I’ll be sure to always mention the boys first before explaining the girls.

        • Taz
          Posted November 18, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          That’s a good point about confidence and risk-taking. You threw me a bit in your original comment when you mentioned internalizing everything. I immediately thought about feelings, which when I grew up boys were expected to keep bottled up. (That was a while ago – things may be quite different now.)

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 18, 2018 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            Yes, by internalizing, I’m not referring to feelings but to thinking that if something is wrong, it’s something you did personally defining yourself by the mistakes you make or the criticisms you receive.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 18, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

            I immediately thought about feelings, which when I grew up boys were expected to keep bottled up.

            Bottled up, with the lid welded on, buried in quick-setting concrete then thrown over the side from a ship above an oceanic trench.
            On your more open days.

      • Caldwell
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        That Time Mag article linked to a CDC PDF with a password. Mysterious.

        Better information is presented more clearly here (CDC), and here (NIH).

  5. allison
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    It has long bothered me to see newspapers run editorial commentary decrying the state of education (or in particular science education), while at the same time running a daily horoscope column.

    It’s been twenty years since I had a newspaper subscription – my local paper (Atlanta Journal & Constitution) was still printing horoscopes when I let my subscription expire – how many major newspapers still print horoscopes? Does New York Times, Washington Post, etc publish horoscopes?

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Not the NYT, I have a subscription there. But in this article they say these places do:

      The Daily News,
      The New York Post
      Vice (har)
      The Los Angeles Times
      The Chicago Tribune
      The Philadelphia Inquirer

  6. Merilee
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    We Aquarians don’t believe in that shit🤓

    • Rita
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      🙂

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      It just doesn’t wash for you? Or your twins? Something fishy about it. It’s a pile of bull. I wouldn’t want to be crabby about it, but that stings like an arrow. When the lion lies down with the superannuated lamb, and you weigh it on the scales of history, it couldn’t carry a parthenogenetic snake … and I can’t work out how to shoe-horn the sea-goat into the screed.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        You really got her goat.

  7. Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Faith or Beliefs could be classified, and you’d might arrive at something like this:

    Belief class I: assuming something which has happened before with some routine, or which isn’t obviously ruled out. The belief that there is still milk in the fridge.

    Belief class II: assuming somethig which rarely happens, relies on a convoluted, unlikely (but conceivable) series of events. Belief that it was the gardener who murdered the maid with a rope in the barn. Belief that the war ends tomorrow before the advancement at noon.

    Belief class III: assuming something without principal precedent and veering into the incredible, but with some possibility that it could be true (perhaps highly unlikely, highly special, highly sophisticated).

    Belief class IV: assuming something that has no method how it could have happened, and which flies in the face on how things usually work. The belief that Adolf Hitler managed to escape, and by using awesome german chemistry of the time, which discovered how to stop aging, is still alive. That aliens seeded cell organisms on earth first, from which everything else evolved.

    Belief class V: full blown irrationality. Belief in things for which there is not only no known, or even remotely plausible mechanism, but where we have solid evidence how and when the belief came about, and where we know for a fact that the origins are ridiculous. I.e. the belief is double-weak. Star constellations are simply stars that shine bright and seem close to one another, making use of our Gestalt-detecting faculty, even if some star sign the stars are actually “close” to one another, what does that have to do with the next star sign? We know this. Astrology is a system we know originate with people who did not have advanced knowledge, and where we — again — KNOW how it came about, why it found use, and what’s appealing about.

    What I am getting at here is that astrology, and religious truth claims are entirely class V beliefs. We are too modest when we say we don’t know. We DO know! We know they are false, because we know how the belief(s) came about. The belief that people of a previous age started to believe in apparent nonsense and that might turn out to be true, somehow, is itself an irrational belief of type V, when the beliefs in question are type V.

  8. Grania Spingies
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    By the way, I find it no more surprising that there are male astrologers than there are male priests.

    You blokes do like the sound of your own voices, after all.

    (I’m kidding.)
    (Voice of narrator: she was not kidding.)

  9. Christopher
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    So, straight men are more likely to be atheists, analytical, and not believe in astrology? Now I see why I’m single. I’m going to have to start dating straight men.

  10. Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    There’s a tebdency among the ‘woke’ to defend any old bollicks of it is more popular among women or gay men than straight men: doesn’t matter if it’s astrology, vocal fry or duck-face selfies.

  11. Mr DONALD K MUIR
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I am gay and a firm believe in this because a great many times for me that which was predicted has come to pass for me . Don’t call it bunk.

    • Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      If you’re serious, then you’re deluded. Studies repeatedly show that astrology doesn’t work.

    • Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      The apparent accuracy of astrological predictions has been explained and tested. It’s simply an illusion. It’s a bit like when religious people see miracles everywhere. They disappear if you view them with the tools of science.

      • mikeyc
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        I feel you’re wasting your pixels here; this is not a position Mr Muir arrived at by use of reason, much less science.

    • Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Which astrology do you mean? Vedic, Chinese, Ptolemaic…?

  12. CAS
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Question: Is rationality in decline in the US, or is it just that more crap gets exposure on the Web, but irrationality is at a level similar to 20 years ago? I suspect the latter since Christianity is certainly in decline. Interestingly, Islam appears to be getting stronger with young people being more devout than their parents.

    • GBJames
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      “…young people being more devout than their parents.”

      The evidence is to the contrary.

      • alexander
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Yes, for all religions almalgamated. But in Europe, religiosity is definitely on the increase in young people with Islamic backgrounds.

        • GBJames
          Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          If you narrow your sample far enough you can always find the exception. I took CAS’s point to be the broad perspective.

        • Posted November 18, 2018 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          I think this is an effect of critical mass.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

            Or an insufficiently critical mass?

          • Alexander
            Posted November 19, 2018 at 2:19 am | Permalink

            No, it is the effect of incessant massive funding of fundamentalist Islam in Europe by Saudi Arabia, and the dispatch of hundreds of fundamentalist imans a over Europe, during the last few decades.

            • Posted November 19, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

              The imams probably think they are bringing Islam to the world. Instead, they may be causing their religion to evolve by bringing it in contact with the modern, mostly non-Islamic world. At least that’s what I hope.

      • CAS
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        I referred to the large scale in terms of numbers. In most Muslim majority countries the young are more religious. In the USA about 25% of children born to Muslim parents leave their faith with more than half becoming atheist/agnostic in a recent study. However new converts essentially replace those who leave.

  13. Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    The Guardian published a similarly odious essay about astrology recently. https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/mar/11/star-gazing-why-millennials-are-turning-to-astrology?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

  14. Roo
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I’m female and occasionally succumb to astrology. I think it probably has to do with many women having higher anxiety. In a negative way, it’s like knocking on wood or not walking under ladders – I know it’s silly, but I feel anxious if I don’t / do. If I happen to see a horoscope that sounds foreboding, then I can’t help but feel more cautious that day. In a positive way, sometimes it’s a way to feel in control. “Oh, my horoscope said today’s a good day to ‘go for it’? Well, I mean, even if astrology isn’t true maybe it’s fate that my horoscope just happened to say that on this particular day…”

    If there’s one thing anxious people generally want, it’s a sense of control, and astrology does provide that. Actual control, no, but a sense of control, yes.

    • Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I’d suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy would be better than astrology for this.

      • Roo
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Of course I agree that cognitive behavioral therapy is more effective, but I’m outlining my hypothesis about an ‘is’ rather than an ‘ought’ in this particular case. I think a sense of control as subconscious reinforcement is sort of a hidden variable in people getting into astrology.

    • Roo
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      An article that might be of interest:

      Why Are MillennialsSoIntoAstrology

      People tend to turn to astrology in times of stress. A small 1982 study by the psychologist Graham Tyson found that “people who consult astrologers” did so in response to stressors in their lives—particularly stress “linked to the individual’s social roles and to his or her relationships,” Tyson wrote. “Under conditions of high stress, the individual is prepared to use astrology as a coping device even though under low-stress conditions he does not believe in it.”

      Of course this doesn’t mean I think this is a good way to deal with stress, only that to some degree I understand the appeal (to some degree – I can’t relate to people who organize their lives around star signs, but I can relate to reassuring oneself with a horoscope check, using it as a quick ‘see it’ll all work out’ pick-me-up) in the same way I can understand the appeal of stress-eating a donut while simultaneously knowing it’s not actually the best method of stress management. I think we all have to resist habits that we know aren’t the healthiest and yet have short term appeal anyhow.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Sure, I hate astrology, but it’s not ’cause I’m a straight white guy. It’s because I’m an Aires; that’s how we do.

    • Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      What’s an Aires? Isn’t it Aries?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        It’s a typo commonly made by people born between March 21st and April 19th. 🙂

        Blame it on the stars.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        It’s a regular Aries that ate too many cruciferous vegetables.

  16. Jon Gallant
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Could the VICE and Guardian articles be straws in the wind? Perhaps we can next expect a defense of astrology by Karen Armstrong, asserting that the Zodiac is merely another word for the Ground of Being (or, as the astrologers prefer to say, the House of Being). Unfortunate that Hitch never went after astrology: if he had done so, we would have been treated to a lecture on Thomist-Marxist astrology from Terry Eagleton. As it is, we can certainly look forward to a trend among the Woke to place astrologers in the marginalariat.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Could the VICE and Guardian articles be straws in the wind?

      There is a definite tendency for these things to follow closely one upon the other. Whether it is commissioning editors trying anything to get a better rating in (whatever your local advertising agency payrate-measuring tool), or the half-life of commissioning editors failing to improve advertising income, or just plain copying and regurgitation to the brink of plagiarism … Well, I’d let Occam apply his razor to the various hypotheses on the table, but I wouldn’t assume that the forces of mindlessness have suddenly got themselves a half-a-clue.

  17. Harrison
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Supporting an idea or policy (such as astrology) because you imagine doing so upsets a class of people you personally don’t like (such as straight white males) smells more than a bit like Trumpism.

  18. Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Funnily enough, if astrology really did work, it could only be one version of it that’s correct. As soon as it were to be confirmed by science, almost every astrologer in the world would be shown to have had the wrong version.

    • Ray Little
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      Actually, no astrologer works from the actual positions of the sun, moon, planets in the zodiac. They all rely on star-charts which are quite often dead wrong. They probably rely on the Ptolemaic system.

      • Posted November 19, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        The ones that come vaguely from that tradition, anyway. There are others, as someone pointed out above.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    But do straight men really hate astrology more than women, or more than gay men?

    Some straight men don’t hate women or gay men at all.

    (I make squinting-quantifier joke! 🙂 )

  20. XCellKen
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Some aspiring social scientist should gather a random sample of Gender Fluid ™ folks. Then test these individuals to determine if a significantly significant percentage of these fine folks believe in the efficacy of Astrology more on those days when they identify as female, and less on those days they identify as male.

  21. rickflick
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The only astrology I liked was during the Age of Aquarius.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjxSCAalsBE

  22. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of astrology and sex, as a teen-aged busboy, I went home with a slightly older waitress after work one night. We were working our way to the boudoir when she asked me what I thought about astrology, and I told her I thought it was bullshit. (Put an immediate damper on our budding concupiscence; guess I should’ve noticed the zodiac decor in her apartment.)

    That’s ok. I don’t mind telling the occasional white lie in the interest of romance (of the “you were the best-looking woman at the party tonight, dear” variety). But I draw the line at copping to a bogus belief in astrology. I mean, like Meatloaf, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do THAT.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      A simple, “I hadn’t thought much about it”, might have saved the evening.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        From her point of view? “Oh, an open mind, ready for indoctrination. This is going to be SO much more fun than just sack time!”

        • rickflick
          Posted November 18, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          Well, when you put it that way…

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 19, 2018 at 5:54 am | Permalink

          Yeah, under those circumstances, the only thing that might’ve gotten bent would’ve been my ear.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      I’m trying to imagine the zodiac decor. A fish shaped sofa. Perhaps a crab clock.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        More in the nature of macrame wall-hangings and coffee-table-top books, as I recall. It was a long time ago, but a fish couch? That, I think I’d remember. 🙂

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 18, 2018 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

          Maybe depends on which species of fish the putative fish-shaped couch looked like? Oarfish, sunfish

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

            Angler Fish and Hag fish would be the worst but I think a salmon shaped sofa could be somewhat elegant if done right.

            • rickflick
              Posted November 19, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

              Stephen Barnard would take a trout for sure.

    • Posted November 18, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      She was a principled lady. Not one of those ready to spread her legs in front of some handsome guy who mocks their deeply held belief. Imagine how difficult it was for her sacrificed love for the sake of duty. Maybe she still dreams of you.

      • Posted November 18, 2018 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        I made more mistakes than usual, but you still get the idea.

      • rickflick
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Do I hear a film script incubating here?

    • XCellKen
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      I once dated a woman that not only believed in numerology, but she performed readings for $$$. She liked me so much, that she gave me a free reading. Afterwards, she was quite deflated when I told her that her reading was quite inaccurate. She made a frowny face, and then said something along the lines of how much her clients paid for such readings, I didn’t appreciate her, etc.

      But she didn’t kick me to the curb. BTW, she was 41 years old, and I was only 26 !!! I’m sure that had nothing to do with why she kept me around LOLOLOL

      And on our first date, we visited a pond in inner city HTown, and fed the ducks !!! I’m sure one or two of y’all here would approve.

      • Grania Spingies
        Posted November 18, 2018 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        Y’know, when men make comments like this, effectively: “she was mind-bogglingly stupid but hey I got to have sex with her”; all the women in the room reading this comment are going:

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 19, 2018 at 1:25 am | Permalink

      You’re more discriminating than me, then. When I was young, randy and desperate (you know, the normal condition of a young white male) I would have professed a belief in the second coming of Jesus if it got me laid. Or at least let it appear that I didn’t utterly reject the idea…

      🙂

      cr

  23. Posted November 18, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    There’s no great mystery here. Astrology/Astronomy were factors in the development of the earliest forms of agriculture, architecture, religion, and civilization. As the human brain evolved so did its capacity for pattern-detection, pareidolia, and agency detection – all cognitive mechanisms adapted from other purposes. (Dennett and Mckay)

    The Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Indo-Aryans (Vedic), Mayans, etc, all developed their governments, cosmology, morality, theology and teleology from their celestial observances. That humans would still retain, project and assign certain powers to these ancient symbols and imagined patterns is really no great mystery at all. In fact, one could easily claim that astrology and religion share the same heritage and evolutionary origins. One can also eagerly foresee a time when religions are legally required to carry the same disclaimer: For Entertainment Purposes Only.

  24. Taz
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Rolling Stone is not to be outdone!

    • XCellKen
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      The comments on that article were the best laff I’ve had in awhile. Thanx

  25. Posted November 18, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    This planets gravitational pull had more influence at birth than anything astrology, perhaps the mid wife, doctor, drugs, had the final say. Belief in the stars is nice but more to the point, the stars of the universe function in creating life… getting real and leave the whimsical alone, for fun i would except.

  26. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Oddly, no mention that the best-known pop song about astrology is by an African-American woman. Beyonce’s “Signs”.

  27. Gabrielle
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been much into astrology, but I love reading the Chinese astrology description on the placemats in Chinese restaurants. I was born in the year of the Pig, and the placemats say that I am most compatible with rabbits and sheep. I love this – I’ve had pet rabbits that I adored, and my hobby is knitting, which is very sheep’s wool oriented. Yeah, I know it’s just a coincidence, but I love it just the same.

    Every February around the Chinese New Year, the US Postal Service puts out a stamp for whatever animal is the featured one for the year in Chinese astrology.

    Inexplicably, there is no Year of the Duck in Chinese astrology.

  28. Ray Little
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    In the past, when someone tried to read me my horoscope, I walked away. Now, no one tries to read me my horoscope, or to share theirs with me. You have to draw a line, and hope that your refusal will little by little lead others to drop the subject, and even to lose interest in it themselves. Don’t argue about it: that’s not how extinction works.

  29. Dale Franzwa
    Posted November 19, 2018 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Newspapers run astrology and Zodiac features for the same reason they run crossword puzzles. There are fans out there who demand them.

    On a related side note, James Randi began his career as a newspaper reporter. His editor assigned him the task of writing the daily astrology horoscope. When Randi sought guidance, the editor told him to just make up calendar referenced,vague horoscopes. People would simply read what they wanted to believe about their own futures. After awhile, Randi gave up the column.

    This all appeared a few years back in Skeptical Enquirer Magazine in a biographical series on Randi.

  30. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 19, 2018 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    “confess: don’t you look at them and look up your birth sign to see if the prognostication matches your life?”

    No. Never.

    I’m actually a Virgo (I looked it up once) but I only missed being a Leo by four days, one way or the other, so I, errm, self-identify as a Leo. Which I think is way cooler, as I can have a coffee mug with a lion on it. And that is the limit of my interest in astrology.

    cr

  31. Posted November 19, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I’m transhoroscope: I was born a virgo but identify as a capricorn.

  32. Zetopan
    Posted November 22, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Astrology “works” for scientific illiterates because its claims are very general and apply to a large portion of the population. James Randy did a classroom experiment showing this long ago, and there have been multiple replications since then by others.

    The below video is incomplete (I saw the original many years ago) but you still get the idea. The young man in the front row counting on his fingers subsequently verbally attacked Randy and complained about “intellectuals” (a group from which he is obviously extremely distant) after the astrology scam was explained to the class. This low quality video cuts off prior to that occurrence.


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