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The faults in our stars: Diving into the horoscope debate

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The word ‘astrology’ brings to mind images of new-age hippies making major life decisions based on whether or not Mercury is in retrograde. From the second millennium BC, the stars have drawn believers, but my experiences with astrology don’t extend that far back. Instead, astrology and I date back to my childhood. Growing up in India, I witnessed many couples who wanted to get married comparing kundlis, astrological charts that prove compatibility by comparing the position of celestial bodies at the time of each partner’s birth. My family members have pundits, or astrological experts, on speed-dial to help them make major life decisions, like figuring out the most auspicious day to buy a new stove. But regardless of the beliefs of those around me growing up, I have always been a skeptic of the powers of astrology, and have grown to notice divisions in belief–people either put their full faith in their horoscopes, or they turn to astrology only when they need answers. And for some, the stars have no significance. Whether you’re part of the population that has faith in the powers of celestial divination or not, everyone knows that astrology gets a bad rep.

The most obvious reason for astrology’s less-than-respected reputation is its status as a pseudoscience. Much of the population glances over such sources solely to amuse themselves and exercise their eye-rolling muscles. According to a survey conducted by astrologer and historian Nicholas Campion, less than a quarter of the general population believes in astrology as a method of prediction. The same study showed that over 40 per cent of people confessed that they look up potential romantic partners’ sun signs to ensure that it will be a good relationship, and over 90 per cent admitted to knowing their own zodiac sign and feeling that it matches their personality. These results suggest that for many horoscope readers, believing in horoscopes is one thing, but admitting to believing in them is quite another.

Why do so many horoscope readers seem to be stuck between full and part-time believing? Furthermore, why has astrology sustained a following despite the gaps in its believership? For the most part, this is due to a desire to explain past life events while validating one’s hopes for future events to occur. And while finding meaning in the happenings of daily life by looking to the night sky is certainly a romantic idea, the reality of most horoscopes is that they are written to vaguely apply to almost any reader.

Yet many people still choose to believe their horoscope is tailored to them specifically. This is the Barnum Effect, a psychological phenomenon occurring in the ‘vague’ sciences–like astrology, tarot cards, graphology, and fortune telling. Humans want to be able to explain almost everything; a convenient way to understand the happenings of our lives is to look up at the stars–or down at the latest horoscope–especially if they tell us what we want to hear. “Today, romantic encounters await you,” is an obvious sign from the universe to ask the cute person in your class out for dinner. “Today is a day of relaxation,” totally justifies spending the day in bed, holding a carton of Häagen-Dazs and binge-watching Netflix. Horoscopes act to validate our decisions–good or bad–but because they are ‘based on the facts of nature,’ there’s no reason to question them. Though there’s comfort in knowing that what’s happened was ‘meant to be,’ readers should approach the stars with caution.

The phrase “correlation is not equal to causation” is a major argument of non-believers but for many the correlation between the stars and one’s life is causation. But how accurate is it? Can the stars instruct you how to go about the present and can they predict the future? In an attempt to answer that question, I’ve created a game. I’ve listed everything I did for three whole days and have noted down my horoscope for those days, but in a random order. Try to match the day to the horoscope. If it helps, I’m a Cancerian born in the year of the Rabbit, on the 16th of July at 12:13 pm EST.

DAY

HOROSCOPE

1

Binge-watched American Horror Story, baked a pan of brownies with my friends and went out to a club at night.

A

Pace yourself, and assess how much ground you have to cover. Understanding evolves to a new level, as long as you don’t go overboard trying to make your point. You could experience a rebellion if you push too hard.

2

Went for an early yoga class, started a bullet journal, and watched two movies (The Breakfast Club and a Bollywood flick).

B

Others easily might say that you are overly emotional, but they do not understand you. You are willing to let go and embrace your feelings, whereas many people are not. This quality is your strength, not your weakness; use it well.

3

Read a couple chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale, met up with a friend for coffee and walked around my neighbourhood.

C

You will want to accomplish more, but others seem insecure and unwilling to join you. Distance yourself, for the time being. Issues that arise now may dissolve by tomorrow! Someone might take your words differently than you had intended.

Answers : 1 – B, 2- C, 3 – A.

Any luck? If not, blame the stars.

Horoscopes were taken from The Toronto Star (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).

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