Debunking pseudoscience: Why horoscopes really work...

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Fri Nov 09 2001 - 23:01:26 GMT

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    Debunking pseudoscience: Why horoscopes really work...

    Horoscopes, and similar future `predictive' or character
    analysing systems, interpreted as generators of self-fullfilling
    prophecies. As such they can be considered to help create their
    own future and thus establish their credibility as future `predictors'.

    Why do the majority of people attach so much value and credibility
    to occult future `predicting' or character analysing systems such as
    astrology, tarot reading, hand reading, and what have you? This phenomenon
    can be understood when realizing that most people are constantly in search of
    security and stability in their lives. They don't seem to be aware of
    the fact that the future is inherently unpredictable,
    chaos-theory and QM forbids any predictability beyond insignificant
    amounts of time (the weather sets a good example).
    (I hope I'm not too greedy in my reductionism.) Consequently, their
    ignorance permits them to cling to whatever system gives an opportunity
    to let them peek into their own future. Prophets and seers persuade
    them that they actually learn about themselves by absorbing what the
    predicting or character analyzing system has in store for them.
    The illusion is created that they have acquired knowledge about themselves
    and their future and so gained a sense of security and stability as they
    now are better capable to anticipate and respond to situations and
    crises in life.

    The knowledge provided by systems such as astrology cannot be considered
    genuine as its premises simply are false. Within the context of memetics,
    what they actually have experienced is a feeding of their self-plexes.
    They are supposedly informed about, or updated on, their personal future
    or character while it is impossible for an outsider to predict or judge
    such an unknowable issue. As stated above, the former simply is not possible
    on elementary physical grounds. Regarding the analysing part, systems such
    as horoscopes work as follows. They actually project certain notions which
    are mostly of a general, positive or warning kind, unto the recipient.
    The information may get to the recipient either by two strategies.
    The most effective, but also less informing, is that the information
    has too much general content to be dismissed as completely false.
    Another way is that the information has such an attractive ring to it,
    that the unskeptical recipient usually is lured into belief fairly easily.
    After all, he has been told something `important', personal information he
    actually is grateful for to have learned. Things like: `So you're a taurus,
    so you MUST be very persevering...', `I see you are twins, you really MUST
    like people then...', `So you're a capricorn you MUST really love to learn
    right?' and `BE careful, dark clouds are gathering above you...' and the like
    are commonly used phrases by the `readers of the stars'.
    Regarding the predictive part, prophecies are at least as general, positive
    or warning. More boldness can be afforded now since any kind of prediction
    simply can't be confirmed or rejected right away! For reasons of analogy with
    the analysing part, they too find easy adoption.

    So what happens next after consulting such sincere and benevolent
    prophets? When the recipient believes in the authenticity and credibility
    of the new self-plex information he might start to act in correspondence
    to it, be it conscious or unconsciously. After all, he has received
    compliments on certain traits he supposedly possesses and may start to
    act them out more. Or when certain predictions about the future are made,
    he might become biased to interpret certain events in his life as evidence
    for the prophecies he has been told to experience. A young girl has been
    told, `You WILL meet a prince on shining armour', but she will settle just
    the same for a four-eyed pimpled puber with an overbite driving a rusty
    VW beetle.

    In other words, the predictions or analyses come true or are confirmed
    albeit in a very plastic liberal manner. A parallel can be drawn here to
    a phenomenon which is known in psychology as a self-fullfilling prophecy.
    People are behaving consistent with or biased to the prophecy (regarding their
    fate) so that it is almost bound to come true. In a way, systems
    such as horoscopes gain their effect by functioning as
    a kind of neuro-linguistic programmers. What most people also do not seem
    to realize, is that a big disadvantage of such misinforming systems is
    that the recipients become reduced in their personal freedom as they
    commit themselves to live their life in conformance with their star-sign,
    tarot-cards and the like. They trade in their genereral talents [1] to
    specialize in chasing dreams, or ghosts depending upon what perspective
    you assume. In a dramatic sense their, also much cherished but illusory,
    free-will (which, in a strict sense, is a fallacy anyway) is shattered
    to smitherines (even more).

    Therefore, in summary, astrology and similar systems do not predict
    futures nor do they provide ways to analyse or evaluate personal
    characteristics. In effect, they actually influence or shape
    the future of the recipients such that their prophecies are likely
    to come true. This feat is accomplished by programming the intentionality
    and mind-set of the recipient (NLP). In a memetics-context, horoscopes
    and similar systems feed the self-plex to create and fuel self-fulfilling

    Some time ago I came across this book about a scientist who, for
    once and for all, wanted to show the world by sheer scienctific means that
    astrology was a hoax and devoid of any truth-content whatsoever.
    So he set out only to discover what seemed to be quite the opposite.
    Horoscopes did seem to offer access to sound personal knowledge and predictions
    of the future. In his book he discloses his findings of
    people that have such-and-such qualities and such-and-such jobs significantly
    consistent with analyses or predictions of astrology.
    The levels of significance of his results may be interpreted in two
    conflicting ways: either the man is right and astrology has inherent
    truth-content and is a valuable asset in obtaining knowledge about the
    self and its future. Or, within the context of my hypothesis, that the
    results were significantly influenced by a priori biased self-plexes of the
    participants biased by astrology. Since a large number of persons took
    part in the investigation it is likely that a significant part of them
    had learned about the implications of their astrological sign in some
    stage of their lives (long) before the investigation took place.
    Consequently, such people might be said to be biased to live their lives
    in accordance with their astrological sign to some extent. Consider
    sentences such as, "Since I'm a taurus my astrologer says I'm supposed to
    be good in acting. Let's try acting then.", "My astrologer says I should
    become a politician as I'm a visces." or "Our star-signs are incompatible
    we can't marry/do business/work together/etc...' I know these phrases
    may sound silly, but they are meant to stress the point I'm trying to make.
    The vast majority of people, including the participants taking part in
    the investigations listed in the book, know their star-sign and attribute
    some value to their horoscopes. It therefore seems reasonable to assume
    that the outcome of the tests are significantly influenced a priori by
    the bias of the participants. If this latter interpretation is true,
    it may be regarded as testimony of the real but deceptive
    power of horoscopes.


    Footnote[1]: The big human brain can be interpreted as the most plastic
    Baldwin machine in nature. That is, humans have the potential access to
    a myriad of survival strategies (talents, if you will). By narrowing down
    these set, by adopting rules to live by on false premises, you needlessly
    reduce the possibilities and prospects life has to offer.

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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