I think Robert Heinlein said it best in “The Happy Days Ahead”, an essy from his 1980 collection Expanded Universe:
Baseline: fifty-odd years ago astrology was commonly regarded as a ridiculous former
supersition, one all but a tiny minority had outgrown. It is now the orthodoxy of many, possibly
a majority. This pathological change parallels the decay of public education.
….Today natal horological astrology is so widely accepted that those who believe in it take it
for granted that anyone they meet believes in it, too — if you don’t, you’re some sort of nut….
I don’t know the percentage of True Believers but it is high enough that newspaper editors will
omit any feature or secondary news rather than leave out the daily horoscope.
Heinlein may have been a opinionated old fart, but he usually put a lot of thought into his opinions, and he draws a completely valid distinction between what he called natal horological astrology and the type of astrology that was the historical precursor for modern astronomy. The former is the belief that “the exact time, date, latitude, and longitude of your birth and the pattern of the Sun, Moon, and planets with respect to the Zodiac at that exact time all constitute a factor affecting your life comparable in importance to your genetic inheritance and your rearing and education”, while the latter was a branch of descriptive astronomy that could make repeatable and accurate predictions about the positions of planets, stars, the sun and moon, and related phenomenon such as eclipses. Granted, many ancient astrologers probably traded on their scientific knowledge to enhance their own status as counselors, but the art of astrology was initially founded on some extremely impressive math skills.
So what draws my ire today? This story in which a Russian astrologer is suing NASA for $300 million because they crashed a probe into the Tempel 1 comet:
“It is obvious that elements of the comet’s orbit, and correspondingly the ephemeris,
will change after the explosion, which interferes with my astrology work and distorts
my horoscope,” Izvestia daily quoted astrologist Marina Bai as saying in legal
documents submitted before Monday’s collision.
Well, guess what, lady? Your precious ephemeris is a load of bunk to begin with. While astrology may be based on some live genius-level mathematics, the whole system depends on mankind’s collective knowledge of the Solar System to begin with. The modern system of 12 signs of the zodiac, based on constellations in the ecliptic of the Solar System, only stablized around the 1930s (and oddly enough, there are actually 14 constellations in the ecliptic, not 12, and they are not even close to being distributed perfectly in 30 degree arcs). We know about a lot more asteroids, comets, and even planets nowadays than we did; astrologers have had to take all of these changes into account. The fact that we discovered existing celestial bodies means that all previous astrological charts were bunk. Since we still don’t have an accurate catalog of all bodies in the Solar System, future discoveries are guaranteed to continue to invalidate current astrological charts. So your stupid-ass lawsuit is a waste of time and money. I hope the courts laugh her out of the building. Sadly, however, I fear that NASA will have to waste time and money fighting this idiocy.