Bryan Caplan  

Hanson Convinces Me that Astrology Is a Science

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The well-educated like to mock astrology; I've done it myself. But today over lunch, Robin Hanson convinced me that it's unfair to do so. There's nothing wrong with studying the predictive power of astrological signs. The only problem is concluding that astrological signs HAVE predictive power. In short, the problem is not astrology, but astrologers who habitually publish bogus results.

Thus, a scientist of unimpeachable integrity could write an astrology column. It would just be a little monotonous, because every day, it would make the same prediction twelve times in a row: "Expect a typical day."


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
jp writes:

That's kind of the way I feel about climate scientists. The study of climate and how it may change over time appears to be a perfectly respectable area of science. The problem IMO is those climate scientists who jump from data tending to show one trend or another to prescriptions of public policy.

Scott clark writes:

I am fairly certain that that is exactly what astrologers in fact do, write "expect a typical day", except with a little more flourish for the paying customer. Whenever my wife points out a horoscope, it just looks like a list of things that generally happen to people in normal course of human events, then divided up into twelve sections, to be moved around in new combinations for tomorrow's paper. Powerful stuff.

Steve Sailer writes:

Right, there's nothing per se impossible about the conformation of the heavens affecting earthly events -- e.g., the moon drives the tides, and, apparently, established the length of the menstrual cycle. Similarly, atronomical events coincide with season changes.

St. Augustine made the first use of the twin study methodology, and used it to raise doubts about astrology, pointing out that Old Testament fraternal twins Jacob and Esau were born moments apart, but had very different personalities and destinies.

Lynn writes:

This article confuses newspaper horoscopes that use only sun signs with astrological interpretations that work with the birthchart as a whole, considering many factors including all planets and the Moon as well as the Sun. There is no denying that newspaper horoscopes are so general as to be ludicrous.

Sudha Shenoy writes:

1. Professional astrology deals with individual --unique -- birth charts. This is impossible with newspaper 'astrology'. The latter bears the same relationship to astrology proper as newspaper 'science tips' do to proper articles/books esplaining scientific developments to the educated, interested lay person.

2. Jacob & Esau were born at different times & therefore had different -- unique -- birth charts. 6:16 pm is not a perfect substitute for 6:20pm (for example.) Astrologers cast the birth-charts of twins precisely to recognise the uniqueness of each individual's complete horoscope.

3. As we already know astrology is wrong, there's no need to get it right, is there?

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