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Billions and Billions of Planets and Stars, Twelve Personalities

Reductio ad Absurdum

Kyle Hill

September 12, 2013

You are not special, the stars and planets decided that at your birth. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake, as Tyler Durden might say. In fact, all your complexities and quirks, your desires and passions, everything you have done or will do fits neatly into what looks like a twelve-slice pie chart laden with calligraphy. A snowflake you are not if astrology were true.

Despite what your mother may have told you, if astrology were true there would be at least hundreds of thousands of people who share in your uniqueness. Indeed, if astrologers could determine your personality and future from your hour and date of birth, there would be 8,760 different combinations available. With 7.1 billion people on the planet this means around 810,000 people would each receive your exact horoscope, your wisdom from the wandering planets above, your future. Human psychology may be broken up into general personality traits, but astrology breaks up human life into less possible variations than the combinations of a 2x2x2 Rubik’s Cube.

If astrology were true, society would fracture. Over time we would learn what days of the year gave rise to what kinds of people. Like parents who want their children to become professional hockey players, mothers would calculate conception and birthing times in order to give their son or daughter a particular star sign. Pharmaceutical companies would make a killing developing the drugs that allowed mothers to delay and control births more effectively. Being born into a specific astrological sign would create grand social rifts. Different schools would spring up as they did for different religions in twentieth century Ireland. Potential mates would need not only good looks but also descendants who shared the same sign. Libras and Aries would be the modern Capulets and Montagues.

Studies would be undertaken to establish the psychology determined by stars and planets. The zodiac would replace Myers Briggs. Modern descriptions of psychopathy would include “being a Gemini” as a defining symptom. The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual cites Mercury as much as it does brain chemistry in a world where astrology is true.

Political parties would also incorporate star signs. Candidates run on the basis of how compatible they are with Cancers and Leos—perhaps key demographics. The Speaker of the House would need to be in the astrological 10th House. And when faraway stars eventually shift enough to change star signs, revolutions follow. A new type of human would enter the mix every few centuries. The status quo would be forever challenged by the whims of gravity.

As we look to the stars, we inevitably imagine traveling to other worlds. That would be a mistake if astrology were true. Colonists making a home for themselves on some far away planet would have a completely different astrological profile—their constellations would be entirely different, as would the surrounding planets. Panic ensues with no horoscopes to guide them. Babies born there would then have personalities yet unseen on Earth. Inhabiting a potential Goldilocks planet like Kepler-62e would quickly produce new kinds of lovers, fighters, and psychopaths.

Back on Earth, the stars and planets in the sky would affect each and every baby born via gravity, meaning that delivery rooms would need to be as pristine as microchip labs if astrology were true. Even a fly landing on the mother’s stomach before birth would affect her more than the gravity of Saturn.

Forget the news, horoscopes are gospel when astrology is true. Dwindling science sections of newspapers are outright discontinued as the future-divining astrologers devour column space. Don’t worry about who you might meet or where your life is going, that is up to the wobble and wanderings of Mars, they say. And after any day’s reading, good or bad, our solar system will eventually replay that particular planetary configuration like a cosmic vinyl record. Your future is simplified. Every so often the planets will conspire to bring about the same set of outcomes from the infinitely possible ones. Hope you saved your horoscope from a few years back, you are going to receive (another) interesting business proposal once those planets realign.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Expect to be bored.

But instead of having a limited number of human personalities and determined destinies, psychological effects can explain exactly why horoscopes are so appealing (and seem spot-on) and analyses of horoscopes themselves reveal no distinct advice among twelve supposedly separate groups. With no force in the known universe able to link the motion of planets and stars to human births, personalities, or lives, can we reduce astrology to the absurd?

Kyle Hill

Kyle Hill's photo

Kyle Hill is a science writer who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. He writes for the Scientific American Blog Network at his blog, But Not Simpler. Hill also contributes to Slate, Wired, Nature Education, Popular Science, and io9. He manages Nature Education's Student Voices blog, is a contributor to Al Jazeera America’s science show TechKnow, and you can follow him on Twitter under @Sci_Phile.