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Can Astrology Work?

Supporters claim that astrology is a science, or at least a field of study based on structured systems and predictable outcomes. If this is so, we should be able to test the underlying theory of these systems and see if it makes sense. Even if we can't prove or disprove it, it should at least make sense and be consistent in it's own way.

At the heart of astrology is the claim that the positions of celestial bodies influence the environment on earth and the people inhabiting this planet. There is assumed to be some type of force which emanates from these bodies and affects life here.

First of all, let's discuss what we know. There are four known forces of nature. These forces are are reasonably well understood, at least in terms of the influence they can have on surrounding objects.

  1. Gravity. Although gravity is not technically a force (it's a curvature of spacetime) it can still be thought of as a force which extends across interplanetary and interstellar space. However gravity cannot be a factor in astrological phenomena since our moon's gravity completely overwhelms any gravitational influence from other planets. Distant planets such as Saturn and Neptune exert no effective gravitational force on earth, in fact a child being born would experience more gravitational attraction to the midwife than to a distant planet.
  2. Magnetism. Again, distant planets exert no effective magnetic force on earth — especially compared to magnetic fields present in our everyday environment.
  3. The strong nuclear force and...
  4. The weak nuclear force. Both nuclear forces only work at the atomic level and cannot be a factor in astrology.

None of the known forces can influence human matters from distant celestial locations — even most astrologers acknowledge this. This means that astrological effects must be due to some unknown force(s). This is where things become controversial, as scientists and astrologers argue over whether such unknown forces could exist.

  • Scientists point out that the four known forces account for everything we see in everyday life. If there were any other forces at work we would be able to measure their effects. If these forces are not measurable, this means they have no influence on anything material, rendering them irrelevant.
  • Astrologers point out that scientific knowledge is incomplete, there may be forces we don't know about, and these forces could behave in unexpected or bizarre ways. These forces may even affect some plane of human consciousness that science is not aware of.

Although it is difficult to make a case for the existence of any new forces, it is nonetheless fair to say that science is imperfect and such forces could exist, however unlikely that may seem. For the sake of this discussion let us assume that there could be a mysterious force generated by celestial bodies, which extends across interplanetary distances, which cannot be detected or measured, but which has some effect on living organisms.

At this point science has an ace up it's sleeve: The question of size and distance.

Astrology places essentially the same importance on celestial objects whether they are large, small, nearby or distant. This is a legacy of the time when people didn't understand the real structure of the Universe and assumed that most celestial bodies were a similar size and distance from earth.

According to astrology then, the size and distance of a celestial body are not related to the influence they exert. If this is true, it follows that every celestial body in the Universe would have a similar amount of influence on humans. This results in a chaotic situation which cannot be reconciled with the way astrology is claimed to operate. It would actually mean that similar forces are being applied to us from every single direction in the Universe simultaneously.

Humans can only see a tiny fraction of the objects out there in space — the night sky is literally filled with celestial bodies we can't see. There are around 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, most of them probably home to orbiting planets and/or other bodies. If they all exert similar forces, as astrology says they must, where do they fit into astrological charts?

So the basic problem of astrology is that there is no type of force which could be excerpted upon us by all the planets in our solar system, without also being exerted upon us by countless billions of other celestial bodies. In short, any theory which would explain how celestial bodies influence the earth would also contain an inherent paradox which means it cannot be true.

At this point astrology supporters are likely to say "But it does work, even if you say it can't". I actually think it's fair to raise this claim and I think it's worth investigating. It's not unheard of for scientists to think something couldn't happen and then it does — what if astrology is the same?

Next Page: Does Astrology Work?