Posts Tagged “zodiac signs”

Astrology Wheel DiskIt’s been the talk of the Internet for the past several days: Astrology isn’t just bullshit, it’s erroneous bullshit. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported a few days ago that the traditional zodiac scheme of 12 “signs,” is off by a couple thousand years, and fails to include a 13th sign that it should have had (WebCitation cached article):

Countless people were astonished by the “news” in Monday’s Star Tribune in which Minneapolis astronomy instructor Parke Kunkle affirmed that the Earth’s “wobble” has shifted the zodiac signs. The buzz has raced across the Web like a shooting star.

As an aside, it seems a bit like bragging for a newspaper to report on the popularity of one of its own stories, but hey, it’s not a perfect world.

In the article, Kunkle affirmed that since the Babylonian zodiac periods were established millennia ago, the moon’s gravitational pull has made the Earth “wobble” around its axis in a process called precession. That has created about a one-month bump in the stars’ alignment, meaning that “when [astrologers] say that the sun is in ­Pisces, it’s really not in Pisces,” said Kunkle, who teaches astronomy courses at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. …

By the reckoning of Kunkle and other astronomers, astrologers are not only a month off in their zodiac signs, but they are neglecting a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus (Ooh-FEE-yew-kus) the Serpent Bearer, for those born from Nov. 30 to Dec. 17.

Astrology’s believers and propagators, however, are unfazed by this news, and dismiss it out-of-hand:

Linda Zlotnick, an astrologer for 32 years in St. Paul, said she and fellow astrologers have long known of the issue raised by Kunkle, but that the most commonly used zodiac — tropical — isn’t affected by it. Zlotnick, also known as “Moonrabbit,” said the sidereal zodiac, which isn’t as widely used, IS based on the constellations.

This dismissal of Kunkle’s critique is echoed in this CNN apologia for astrology (cached):

But before astrology fans scrape the ink from their arms because they think they’re now a Virgo instead of a Libra, they should consider this: If they adhered to the tropical zodiac — which, if they’re a Westerner, they probably did — absolutely nothing has changed for them.

What makes this dismissal invalid, is that it’s basically tautological: The “tropical zodiac” is merely the name of the zodiac as laid down by the Babylonians and later used by the Greeks. That’s all it is … just a name. As Kunkle pointed out — and as the astrologers themselves admit — it no longer coincides with the motion of the sun through the constellations.

I note that the astrologers’ whine about this story is that “it’s old news, everyone knows that.” As such, it’s curiously like all the various defenses of Biblical literalism that fundamentalist Christians reflexively toss around, every time someone points out the many problems with scripture that have been found over the last couple centuries.

While it’s true that the precession of the heavens is “old news” — dating to the 2nd century BCE, having been discovered by Hipparchus of Nicæa — and is by no means a major revelation, this doesn’t mean it’s not important or insignificant. Quite the opposite, it means astrologers have no valid excuse for not knowing any better. But the truth here is that astrology is bullshit anyway, so it hardly matters to its peddlers that it’s out-of-whack and no longer coincides with reality. Facts don’t matter, only the belief does. Astrologers’ dismissal of this “news” tells us everything we need to know about astrology — and about them.

Hat tip: Bad Astronomy.

Photo credit: dragonoak.

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