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9 January, 2005

Sceptical by birth

Writing in the Guardian, Lucy Mangan has a good rant about astrology, digressing into understandable ridicule of New Age 'muck' (her phrase).
I'd be inclined to agree, if not for one consideration: I do think astrology can accurately describe a person's general personal characteristics.

I'm not saying I believe that the configuration of celestial bodies millions of kilometres away predetermine events in an individual's everyday life. That makes no sense whatsoever, and I'm just as scathing of newspaper horoscopes as Ms. Mangan. However, empiricism - basic observation - seems to show that the characteristics ascribed to, say, Taureans are exhibited by people I know personally, who happen to have been born in April/May. For whatever reason, that aspect of astrology seems to work; it's the explanation which seems implausible, not the result.
I can't imagine how the location of an arbitrary group of stars at the moment of one's birth (indoors, in a windowless room, for ****'s sake) could influence one's future personality, but other factors may apply, based on one's birth date.

The timing of hypothetical key stages in an infant's biological development might be important; a child passing a certain threshold in March might be affected in a different way to a child passing the same developmental point in June. Maybe the earth's magnetic field fluctuates. Maybe it's dark matter.
That's nature; there's also nurture. For example, a child born in October would be amongst the eldest in his/her age group in the UK education system, whereas one born in August would be amongst the youngest, with consequent sociological impacts.

I'll get the main counter-argument in before anyone else: self-fulfillment. Knowing the stereotypical Capricorn characteristics, one is bound to spot them in someone born in December/January. Someone born in July might exhibit them too, but one isn't primed to notice. It probably applies in reverse, too. An indecisive person might attribute that trait to simply being a Libran, thereby reinforcing the behaviour pattern.

This is all oversimplifying, but it illustrates that I can't dismiss what we term 'star signs' in the absence of a more convincing explanation, even though I certainly question the relevance of distantly burning hydrogen.

But I'm a Scorpio (sun, moon and ascendant), so I suppose I would say that.

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