Astrology and the market? No wonder it crashed

By Phil Plait | October 16, 2008 3:00 pm

The New Jersey Star-Ledger has an article all about how astrologers predicted the stock market crash, and how Pluto moving from Sagittarius into Capricorn is part of the problem, and and and.

What is this article missing? Any sort of idea that astrology is total and utter nonsense.

Oh, at the very end there is a single anecdote about how one astrologer was wrong once, and the client lost money. But the first 90% of the article is all about astrology, and how many financial astrologers there are, and how much they charge.

It never once uses the word "fraud", more’s the pity. Amazing.

Well, if you are concerned over this market, and you decide to go to an astrologer to get advice, this I will guarantee: you will lose money… the amount charged by the flim flam artist. But I bet the financial news is great for astrologers, because there will always be people lined up to pay them.

And I love the way the article ends:

“I haven’t seen any successful studies or back testing or white papers on the subject to sway me,” [Steven Kaye, president of the American Economic Planning Group in Watchung] said. “But who knows? It’s probably better than listening to a tip from your brother-in-law’s foreman.”

Actually, I’m quite sure it is precisely no better at all. It’s just as random, just as ill-informed, and just as silly.

Tip o’ the water jar to Theresa Moody

Comments (87)

  1. Boosterz

    The nutty thing is that it very well MIGHT work IF enough people believe it. The market is basically just mob psychology so if enough people believe this crap and let it influence their trades, then you could make money by tracking it as well.

  2. Why are reporters so frakkin’ credulous? It’s infuriating! They don’t realize that science is a meritocracy, not a democracy and some ideas are discarded when they have no merit. I wish that was taught on day 1 of Journalism 101.
    Off rant!
    Rich

  3. Kevin

    Yeah, last time I looked at it, Pluto was barely in Sagittarius, and years from leaving it. Another strike for the astrology wack jobs. :)

  4. Mike Rondeau

    I laughed today when I came to the website and saw this. Turns out today @ work I had discussion with one of my co-workers about astrology. She believed Astrology was a science. I almost fell out of my chair! I have been debating her the last few weeks on topics such as Big foot ,UFOs,Alien building the pyramids and today astrology.So I wasn’t surprised by this.It’s not easy teaching people reality from nonsense. I’ll be sure to show her this Blog. Now on to the really good news. I received my copy of Death From the Skies today. I am geeked up for this book. I even did some promoting on my myspace page for Phil. Hope it drives the book sales up lol

  5. HidariMak

    Most people know that there is a much, much bigger fortune to be made in the financial market, by those with the skills to follow the market, than there is in being a professional astrologer. Right? Just saying…

  6. Ted H.

    So Pluto matters for some reason, but I bet they don’t account for Eris, and all the other Kuiper Belt Objects. That’s gotta throw off the whole formula anyway.

    My book came today as well. Woo-hoo!

  7. Spaceman Spiff

    Reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon, in which Dogbert explains to the boss:

    “You must use the stars as your management guide”

    Boss: “Does that work?”

    Dogbert: “If you believe it works, then you’re not bright enough to make your own decisions anyway….So randomness is probably an improvement.”

    Boss: “Q.E.D.”

  8. If you could prove that astrologers knew this whole crisis was coming and could have said something to help mitigate the effects, and they did nothing to act on it by warning the rest of us, could they be held responsible? Of course, they’d say no… and have some mystical reason why they couldn’t forewarn us (at least, not without being paid to first).

    heh…

  9. John Powell

    I left the first comment over there:

    Why is the Star-Ledger helping these frauds? Astrology is nothing but bunk, and if there were any astrologers that could do what this article says they can do, why hasn’t one of them claimed James Randi’s $1 million prize?

    http://www.randi.org/joom/challenge-info.html

  10. Charlie Foxtrot

    HA!
    I’ve just finished reading an article picked up by the online ‘The Age’ (Melbourne, Australia) here:
    http://www.theage.com.au/world/saturn-leo-to-blame-for-global-meltdown-20081016-52a5.html

    This bloke in Mumbai is blaming the financial crisis on Saturn in Leo, with a bit of help from a mythical ‘shadow planet’, ‘Ketu’.

    No mention of Pluto or Uranus anywhere. Do ya think a bit of consistency in this ‘Astrology’ would be too much to ask for? Do ya!?!

    …And… how does the ‘thousand year old art of Astrology’ even account for Pluto and Uranus!? They weren’t discovered until 1930 and 1781, respectively! Arrggh!

    Sigh – but of course – I’m a Cancer… we’re notoriously snippish and thick-skinned.
    …and taste great in a butter-sauce.

  11. I’m sure that now some “good” astrologers will rant about the “black sheep” in their own guild and how important it is to “analyse” the stars the right way.

    Meh.

    That’s one crucial problem with them. Some of them are right with their predictions because there are lots of them and the probability says so. One word -or two-: Random sh*t.

    And when one of those braindead guys has -against all odds- the luck to place two or three hits in a row i really almost can’t await the moment he/she calls the other suckers “snake oil vendors” – or worse.

    Meh, again. If only the yellow press would ignore them. They all (or -see above- some of them) wouldn’t survive without gutter papers and/or illiterate journalists who just want to sell EVERYTHING because they are just to dumb to do a good, investigative job.

  12. Here’s a letter I just sent to Greg Saitz, the article’s author. I tried posting to nj.com directly, but it kept barfing up an HTML error. If I screwed something up, please be gentle.

    As a NJ resident, I would just like to point out not everyone here is that credulous. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the Pine Barrens for my weekly Jersey Devil hunt.
    —————————

    Dear Mr. Saitz:

    I just finished reading your Oct. 16 article for the Star-Ledger regarding the alleged accuracy of astrology-based investing. I’m concerned that very little research was done into whether astrology is accurate at predicting anything, let alone the financial markets. Your article appears to be really low on evidence to back up the claims of these so-called experts.

    What is Henry Weingarten’s accuracy in predicting financial trends? What are his qualifications as a financial expert? Is there any scientific evidence to back up how a planet’s orbit would affect stock trading literally millions of miles away? Would someone such as Paul Krugman, the economist for the NY Times, rely on something like astrology to gauge their opinions?

    I really wish some of these questions had been asked when writing this article.

    Astrology has been around since the Greeks and Romans; so has water dowsing and ghost sightings, and those have no more scientific evidence to back them up than astrology. You can visit badastronomy.com (http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/astrology.html) and the Skeptic’s Dictionary (http://skepdic.com/astrolgy.html) for more info.

    Matt A

  13. For a project in college I set up an experiment in which I would present an astrologer with twenty four random people. The astrologer would get to speak to each person for five minutes and then would declare which zodiac sign each person was born under.

    I had to abandon the project because I couldn’t find a professional astrologer that would be willing to take the challenge.

    Funny how that works.

  14. James Moening

    Don’t shoot the messenger. The writer at the Ledger never made claims astrology is legitimate practice. The quotes in the story are from people unconnected to the newspaper. The writer has simply supplied context for a reader to accept or reject the ideas of those referenced. (The article is a feature, one of many ways to provide perspective without passing judgement. Other media-related terms to learn include notebook, column, opinion, editorial, analysis, reaction and report.)

  15. baryogenesis

    @Boosterz–Quite possible if enough played the game by those “rules”. The Brits spread false (ha!) astrology info during the War in Germany hoping it would influence the Reich’s (Hitler’s, ultimately) decisions.

    @Kevin- The ephemerides used by astrologers are not based on the current apparent sky positions of planets in constellations! It really is a separate world.

  16. jb

    this is my favourite James randi clip regarding astrology…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dp2Zqk8vHw

  17. Totally unrelated; the “overhead projector” was on Keith Oberman’s Countdown tonight. At least he knew what kind of projector it was.

  18. pcarini

    Let’s see one of them predict whose stock I should buy on the cheap, how long to keep it, and when to sell again…

    Also, I missed my copy of the book today, sill UPS won’t deliver it w/o a signature ;( I told them that if somebody wants to steal it then they’re welcome to, as long as they read it, but no dice.

  19. Jim Atkins

    Phil- your post has been picked up by Aviation Week, the #1 sviation and space technogeek engineering magazine- check out http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogsmain/index.jsp – scroll down to the bottom of the page for the mention- way cool!!!

  20. Troy

    So…every 45 years the opposition of Uranus and Pluto causes market problems. 1918 and 1963 should be problem years. I checked a 100 year Dow chart, these don’t correlate with the great depression, the problems in the 70s or even the 1987 Market woes. My B.S. detector is going off.

  21. @Kevin:
    Good catch! Pluto will cross from Sagittarius into Capricorn at 11:06PM on Feb 28th, 2023!
    They’re only 14 1/2 years off!
    Rich

  22. Loved the Google Ad that appeared at the top of the page when I read this article. See it at http://www.gbch.net/ba-advert.png

  23. Daniel

    Darn…and Mercury is in retrograde. Computers fail, markets crash…Just a natural part of the end of days.

  24. IVAN3MAN

    An astrologer was frogmarched to Adolf Hitler’s headquarters by two SS officers and brought before the Führer, who was poring over his battle plans and fuming at yet another defeat on the Russian Front.

    Adolf Hitler barked at him: “CALL YOURZELF AN ASTROLOGER?! SCHWEINEHUNDE! YOU VILL BE SHOT AT DAWN!”

    Astrologer: “But, mein Führer, I did not expect zis!”

    Hitler: “ZAT IZ VHY YOU ARE GOING TO BE SHOT!”

  25. IVAN3MAN

    ERRATUM:*

    An astrologer was frogmarched to Adolf Hitler’s headquarters by two SS officers and brought before the Führer, who was poring over his battle plans and fuming at yet another defeat on the Russian Front.

    Adolf Hitler barked at him: “CALL YOURZELF AN ASTROLOGER?! SCHWEINEHUND! YOU VILL BE SHOT AT DAWN!”

    Astrologer: “But, mein Führer, I did not expect zis!”

    Hitler: “ZAT IZ VHY YOU ARE GOING TO BE SHOT!”

    *I misspelled “schweinehund”. We seriously need editing facility here, Phil!

  26. SteveN

    Wasn’t there a ‘study’ in which a chimp consistently out-performed a professional stockbroker with regards to investment advice. If so, why not an astrologer?

  27. IVAN3MAN

    ERRATUM:*

    An astrologer was frogmarched to Adolf Hitler’s headquarters by two SS officers and brought before the Führer, who was poring over his battle plans and fuming at yet another defeat on the Russian Front.

    Adolf Hitler barked at him: “CALL YOURZELF AN ASTROLOGER?! SCHWEINEHUND! YOU VILL BE SHOT AT DAWN!”

    Astrologer: “But, mein Führer, I did not expect zis!”

    Hitler: “ZAT IZ VHY YOU ARE GOING TO BE SHOT!”

    *Stupid italic HTML tags! We definitely need editing facility here, Phil!

  28. Justin Andrews

    Ok, if astrology can predict the market (pfffft) then surely right now every Astrologer should be rolling in cash as they went into a short selling frenzy…

    No?

    Maybe thats because astrology cannot predict the market, or anything else…

  29. TheWalruss

    “The nutty thing is that it very well MIGHT work IF enough people believe it”

    Not really true – it’s not so much the positions of the stars that influences the markets than whatever the astrologers say about them!

    Perhaps we should shoot the astrologers into interplanetary space and see if it improves the economy… you know … to adjust the alignments of the planets …

  30. Deepak

    Dear Phil, request you to kindly take couple of courses on Astrology, understand it in detail and then put forth your views. After going through it in detail you may want to tone your comments down.

  31. Mark

    Funny how I today stumbled over an article detailing how bad brokers fared in logic-base decision and the ability to let of behavior patterns that had shown to be wrong. Alright, we’re all guilty of that to some extent, but the numbers were quite a bit higher for Mr. Wall Street than for the “average Joe”…

    And now I can’t for the life of me find that web page… :(

  32. JM

    Fraud not mentioned?

    That’s because it *is* fraud. The type that will put them in jail.

    No-one can offer financial advice unless they are licensed. They can be wrong, but they have to be licensed and use accepted analytical techniques.

    Never mind the science, I doubt that astrology is an accepted technique. Tea leaves aren’t acceptable either.

  33. Mark

    @Deepak:
    You do realize that one does not have to take a “course” on Astrology to see how it works if it’s plain to see that it does. not. work.
    I do NOT e.g. have to be a mechanic to notice that my car won’t start. Knowledge of the intricacies of a craft might be helpful if said craft. worked. in. the. first. place.

    Yes, over the years, constant exposure to superstition has made me allergic to it. Breathing calmly now… one… two… one… two…

  34. Chaos

    Wrong or not (and I think it IS wrong), astrology isn´t really much worse than anyone else. Everyone, including stock brokers, is trying to forecast market developments from vastly insufficient data – one of my professors said his class could be named “Reading Tea Leaves 101″.
    Stock brokers are outperformed by essentially random choices (an elementary school student in one of Richard Wiseman´s experiments, a chimp throwing darts in an earlier one) – at the Frankfurt stock market, 80% of all funds perform worse than the market, and that´s at normal economic times.

  35. IVAN3MAN

    Dear Phil, I request that you delete my previous two posts above because of the minor errors.

    Dear Deepak, JREF — of which Dr. Phil Plait is El Presidente — offers US$1,000,000 to anyone who can prove astrology/supernatural powers/what-have-you. Don’t give the usual excuse that the tests are ‘biased’ or ‘unfair’. If amateur/professional chefs were offered US$1M to make the perfect soufflé, they would fall over themselves to accomplish the task, and not make silly excuses such as: ____________ (enter typical excuse(s) in blank space).

  36. Woot!

    >>ITEM(S) SHIPPED:
    >>1. Death From The Skies – 1 @ $17.24

    I was wondering when the pre-order would finally process…

  37. @Deepak

    From your comment, you seem to know how it works, so please, enlighten us. No, just answer this one simple question, since nearly every reader here, and BA himself will understand your answer:

    By what mechanism do the positions of stars and planets affect events on Earth?

    That’s a simple question. It’s simple because it is well established that all bodies that interact do so by one or more of four forces: strong nuclear, weak nuclear, electromagnetic, or gravity. If astrology works, the planets and stars must interact with individuals via one or more of those forces.

    So please give us a few paragraphs on the mechanism.

    Thanks.

  38. Mang

    @baryogenesis you beat me to that one. Yes they use the ancient stars.

    A friend of mine used to dabble in Astrology more as a hobby and entertainment. She didn’t believe and was quick to point out that the “houses” were out of kilter with the sky. Actually, she did some writeups on my family and they were very entertaining. The charts look very nice (a bit like people who have shinny brass telescopes in their dens). The ones for my kids were done as gifts shortly after they were born. One she did for one of my sons was quite interesting, memorable, and turned out be quite accurate as far as general tendancies. Mind you there are 5 of us. The other 4 are not memorable (the charts still look nice). Now nailing someones personality 20% of the time ….

    As for brokers if they really had this great inside information wouldn’t they keep it to themselves and get rich rather than spreading the “wealth”.

  39. If astrology really could predict stock market fluctuations then astrologers wouldn’t need Randi’s $1 million: they’d be able to buy and sell Randi a thousand times over.

    Just look at how wealthy Warren Buffet became through investments. Why are there exactly zero (0) astrologer billionaires? (Those who may have millions all got it peddling their books and speeches–to credulous people.) I’m skeptical that among all the thousands of astrologers and would-be astrologers not a single one is interested in becoming a millionaire through investing.

    As with Randi’s prize, they could donate the money to charity. They could build children’s hospitals, bring clean drinking water to people in Africa, provide scholarships to poor children. Plus, it’d prove that astrology works! And if it did work, knowing that would be important; it’d help everyone improve their lives.

    The fact that some investors–and even some corporations–make investment decisions based on astrology just proves Barnum’s maxim about what happens every 60 seconds. The fact that no one has beat the market via astrology is very compelling evidence that it doesn’t work.

  40. Based on my careful analysis of the movements of a number of celestial bodies, it is my considered opinion that the stock market will rebound in the near* future! Thus, spread the word: BUY!

    Let’s wait and see. And when I turn out to be right, all you skeptics will be red-faced.

    Why do these “predictions” always happen after the fact? It reminds me of the quote: “Making predictions is hard….especially about the future”. I don’t recall who said that….maybe Yogi Berra?
    ——————–
    * near defined as anytime in the next ten years — a mere blink of an eye in geologic time.

  41. TheWalruss

    I call troll on Deepak. Anybody seriously trying to get Phil (and the BA readers) to reconsider their assessment of astrology would at least give give a website, no?

    If Deepak is still reading these comments: can you please suggest some courses on the subject that might be instructive?

    I’d love to take an astrology class if it taught me something about predicting the future of such a complex system as a human person, based on easily accessible data like planetary positions! I’m 100% serious.

  42. Chaos

    IVAN3MAN: If astrology or whatever really worked and produced predictably useful results, any astrologer could make a killing, for example in the stock market – the JREF million would be small change for them. For that reason, the fact that there are no multi-billionaire astrologers should be an important clue about the usefulness of astrology.

  43. Greg in Austin

    @Deepak,

    You never answered my question in the other post. What accredited school or university offers a degree in Astrology?

    The reason I’m asking, is there is a big, huge, giant difference between a degree in physics (which includes Astronomy), mathematics, biology, etc. and astrology.

    Astrology is not science. Astrologers do not follow the scientific method.

    I’d say you need to take a real science course, and then come back and tell us if you still think astrology is anything other than fantasy.

    8)

  44. quasidog

    I’d like to see Myth Busters or someone do a show on debunking it for the masses. Astrology am teh stoopid.

  45. Nigel Depledge

    Deepak said:

    Dear Phil, request you to kindly take couple of courses on Astrology, understand it in detail and then put forth your views. After going through it in detail you may want to tone your comments down.

    I notice, Deepak, that you don’t include any actual facts in your comment. Why is Phil’s critique of the newspaper article unfair? What makes his general critique of astrology wrong? What controlled experiments have been carried out that demonstrate the success of astrology as a predictive tool? Perhaps you should answer these questions first if you want astrology to be taken seriously.

    If Phil is wrong about astrology, it’s pretty easy for astrologers to prove it. Have they done this? No. OTOH, if Phil is right, all we would expect is what we actually see – sniping and whining from the credulous.

  46. Annette

    Deepak, do the “courses” you are talking about consist of the ones you find listed in the classified ads in the paper? You know the ones, they are held in hotel conference rooms over a weekend for the low price of $500… right next door to the “psychic fair”.

    Thats not a course, sorry to say. But it would be a good idea to check out some free public talks at your local university’s physics/astronomy/engineering faculty.

  47. tsg

    Dear Phil, request you to kindly take couple of courses on Astrology, understand it in detail and then put forth your views. After going through it in detail you may want to tone your comments down.

    Courtier’s Reply. One need not be an expert in fashion to see the emperor has no clothes.

  48. Ian Kemmish

    Of course astrology can affect the stock market. If a purely hypothetical President R****n (or Chancellor H****r) consults his astrologer and that astrologer tells him to go to war, you can bet that the bottom will fall out of the market…..

  49. IVAN3MAN

    @ Chaos

    Agreed. The other week, here in Europe, the Euro-millions lottery jackpot roll-over was over €128,000,000. If astrologers/psychics really had the abilities they claim, they would scoop it every time.

    Also, here in Britain and in Ireland, betting on the horses is perfectly legal — off course as well as on the course — so the bookies would be “taken to the cleaners and hung out to dry” if these astrologers/psychics were able to pick the winners every time, but they never do, which is why bookies are still in business.

  50. Jody Alan

    “What the Stars Foretell,” episode 37, Monty Python’s Flying Circus:

    “Mrs. O [reading her horoscope]: You have green, scaly skin, and a soft yellow underbelly with a series of fin-like ridges running down your spine and tail. Although lizard-like in shape, you can grow anything up to thirty feet in length with huge teeth that can bite off great rocks and trees. You inhabit arid sub-tropical zones and you wear spectacles.

    Mrs. Trepidatious: It’s very good about the spectacles.

    Mrs. O: It’s amazing!

  51. Gary Ansorge

    Steve N: Say, what’s the name of that chimp? I’m sure there are many investors looking for such good advice right now,,,

    I note there is only one technique ever developed that consistently outperforms the DOW, NASDAQ, etc. It’s called Drunkards walk or sometimes Random Walk. It’s very simple and requires no knowledge of the market.
    1) tape a page of the stock market on the wall
    2) throw darts blindfolded at the page
    3) toss out the obvious dogs and the high end stocks
    4) reinvest earnings from those stocks that make money in those particular stocks.

    Over time, the losers drop away, the winners keep gaining in value exponentially (due to the reinvestment in said winners)

    Average return over a decade out performs the market by about two to one.

    Malcom Forbes preformed this experiment for the decades from the mid ’60s to the mid ’70s and again from the late ’70s to the late ’80s. It works!

    There used to be a truism about IBM, that the only way to successfully invest in the market was to buy IBM and NEVER SELL.

    The stock market, like the price of oil (no direct connection involved here) goes thru cycles in which the next low in the cycle never goes as low as the last low but the next high will exceed the previous high. I would guess that cycling will continue in that trend as long as we keep making more people to drive the market. Of course, if the population crashes, all bets are off,,,

    The losses we hear about are usually due to people trying to out guess the market, ie, trying to make a “killing”. That’s just normal human greed,,,

    GAry 7

  52. A Real Astrologer

    What you’ve got going here is a hate site pure and simple. None of you know the least about the subject–you’ve not read a book, been to a real astrologer or attended a single lecture– yet you have no qualms judging it false. Not very scientific of you in my opinion! Then you go on to declare that financial astrologers are frauds. Since they believe in what they’re doing, the most legally you could get I think is misrepresentation.

    Astrology “works” well enough for many and we can’t all be crazy!

  53. DGKnipfer

    If the simple act of observing something changes it then each time an Astrologer observes the planets in an attempt to predict the future he/she changes the planets thus changing the future. Thus a good Astrologer must always be wrong because they changed the future from what they predicted into something else. That explains why everything is so messed up.

  54. tsg

    What you’ve got going here is a hate site pure and simple. None of you know the least about the subject–you’ve not read a book, been to a real astrologer or attended a single lecture– yet you have no qualms judging it false. Not very scientific of you in my opinion! Then you go on to declare that financial astrologers are frauds. Since they believe in what they’re doing, the most legally you could get I think is misrepresentation.

    How can you say the emperor has no clothes when you can’t even tell Egyptian silk from Japanese silk?

    we can’t all be crazy!

    Why not?

  55. baryogenesis

    “…you’ve not read a book…”, etc. OK, now I must come out of the closet, so to speak. There was a period in my life (during the 70’s and 80’s) when I survived from doing astrology charts (people thought I was very good), acupuncture (a little nervous around the eyes and vital organs), and other things to survive. Never charged much so didn’t get rich. Here’s a problem, one of many, Real Astrologer: You go in “cold reading” armed with a very complex symbol system which can be juggled to cover any personality trait. Probably many astrologers don’t rely on predictions as much as a sort of psychological reading. “Your temper can get out of control because of an Aries sun or rising (or Scorpio) or Mars in the 1st house or at the midheaven,blah ,blah…” “Not really? Oh, that’s because of Venus trine the Rising Sign which moderates this tendency, blah, blah…” See, the problem is nothing really valuable comes of it all, except maybe some get wealthy, others get some sort of amateur counseling. In the end, everyone gets reinforcement to continue to live in a fantasy world.

  56. @A_Real_Astrologer

    Scroll up and answer the questions I asked of Deepak.

    You see, I have, in fact read plenty of books, been to lectures and more than one “real” astrologer. But I would not be so bold as to claim I know it all. So please, enlighten me. The question I asked Deepak should be a simple matter for you since it would be the most fundamental fact of Astrology.

    Here, I’ll make it easy and save you the wear and tear on the scroll wheel:

    @Deepak

    From your comment, you seem to know how it works, so please, enlighten us. No, just answer this one simple question, since nearly every reader here, and BA himself will understand your answer:

    By what mechanism do the positions of stars and planets affect events on Earth?

    That’s a simple question. It’s simple because it is well established that all bodies that interact do so by one or more of four forces: strong nuclear, weak nuclear, electromagnetic, or gravity. If astrology works, the planets and stars must interact with individuals via one or more of those forces.

    So please give us a few paragraphs on the mechanism.

    Thanks.

  57. KC

    Well, I’m of two mind here. First, the premise of astrology is demonstratively false. But I also think about dart boards. Years ago – perhaps decades now – some people did a stunt where they built two portfolios. One was put together by financial advisers. The other by using a dart board. Perhaps they put a financial listing on a dart board and threw darts at it – I forget the precise method. At the end of the period, the dart board portfolio did better than the financial advisers. The point – and the chuckles – was that random chance had a higher success rate that many who were billing themselves as financial experts of the day.

    Thus a person who consults an astrologer for stock picks might experience a dart board effect through random chance. For that reason I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’d lose money.

    There is one possible caveat: If the majority of investors used astrology. Since most of investing is psychologically driven anyway (for example, see any financial bubble in history), then if the majority of investors were influenced by astrology. you’d have a good handle on what the market was going to do.

    This that’s not the case, I’ll stick to P/E ratios and 200 day averages.

  58. baryogenesis

    E. Squid- We all know how your question would be answered. Something like: “Well, science doesn’t know everything. There are deep mysteries, my brother; layers and layers like an onion. ..” Then we’re into the realm of magic and philosophy and religion. Some sort of melding of Hinduism with Neo-Platonism and a sprinkling of gnosticism and medieval magic all packaged for the New Age. There is something worth studying here. But it’s in the realm of manipulation of mind and emotions, of belief systems and self hypnosis. If astrologers are using the wrong planetary data on which to base their whole system, well, it becomes the same as tarot reading or palmistry.

  59. Greg in Austin

    “Astrology “works” well enough for many and we can’t all be crazy!”

    Astrology doesn’t work at all. Period. Some people just don’t know it yet.

    A “psychic” once told me I would marry a woman named Beth and have 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. I’m over 35, been with my wife (not named Beth) for 17 years, and have no children. My experience says psychics are frauds.

    Horoscopes are so vague and generalized they could apply to anyone of any “sign.” Even when they are specific, 99.9% of the time they are wrong.

    Tarot cards have been tested over and over again and have never shown to be any more predictive than random chance.

    How is that unscientific?

    It has nothing to do with hate, its simply a choice between reality and fantasy. Most of us here choose reality.

    8)

  60. Todd W.

    @KC

    Even if the majority of investors listened to astrologists, you still would not have a good grasp on what the market was going to do, because you’ll get a different reading from every single one. There is no consistent method to it that every astrologist adheres to. Now, if everyone listened to the same astrologist…

  61. Todd W.

    Err…that should’ve been “astrologer”, not “astrologist”…

  62. Gary Ansorge

    A Real Astrologer: “,,,and we can’t all be crazy!”

    I define crazy as doing the same thing repeatedly w/o replicable results. Since the “predictions” of astrology are NOT replicable, anyone who believes in it is, by definition, CRAZY,,,

    ,,,and just because they are many who believe as do you, doesn’t mean you’re right. There used to be a lot of people who believed the earth was flat. No matter how many believed it, they were ALL WRONG!!!

    Gary 7

  63. Chris A.

    If you read up on the history of astrology, you find that in its earliest incarnation, it was an attempt to predict all manner of natural phenomena, including weather, earthquakes, etc. Then we figured out that there are reasons for such things that have nothing to do with the positions of the planets. As more and more was understood about the reasons for natural phenomena, astrology’s purported predictive powers narrowed, eventually giving us what we have today, as most astrologers claim (that astrology can only suggest “tendencies” of human behavior).

    The analogy that springs to my mind is the denial of evolution. As more and more fossil evidence piles up, the creationists’ god who exists to explain what science can’t retreats further and further (the “god of the gaps”).

    Thus, in effect, “planetary influences” are the god of astrology (which is clearly a religion, not a science), and science diminishes it further every day.

    So patience, dear skeptics. We’ll bury this dying, anachronistic deity eventually. Perhaps not in our lifetimes, but some day.

    (And before someone accuses me of being another “godless atheist scientist,” I am not. I just don’t believe in diminishing God by trying to put Him in a test tube. For me, science is a (the?) way to discover the “how,” religion is a way to discover the “why.”)

  64. Gary Ansorge

    God, is an ideal we pursue. Santa is the way we wish people really were. Astrology and any other religion is mythology, which may have some metaphorical truth, but they’re really about human desire for certainty, which as you will note, is the single biggest complaint heard on this blog by the extremist religious types, ie, that science never asserts to have it all nailed down. The very idea that nothing is certain is unsettling for most people, thus religion and other fairy tales fill the uncertainty gap while scientists keep pursuing Xeno and his paradox,,,

    If I assert that I am God, the only way for anyone to prove me a liar is to kill me, wait three days and if I stay dead, then they know I was a liar,,,of course, by then, they’ll likely be in prison,,,snark,,,

    GAry 7

  65. Antonio Carlos

    Dark matter, dark energy is the same as astrology.

    AC

  66. Mark Hansen

    @A Real Astrologer,

    First, I wouldn’t use quotes around “works” if you’re trying to convince people. It makes it looks like it doesn’t work at all.

    Second, as your name suggests that you are a real astrologer rather than the pretend ones that everyone else seems to have encountered, perhaps you can explain scientifically how astrology works and show it to be working. There’s a US $1M prize just waiting to go off at JREF.

  67. Antonio: Oh? And how is that?

  68. IVAN3MAN

    Q: How many astrologers does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: “Don’t ask me now, Mercury’s in retrograde!”

  69. tresmal

    Mark Hansen says: “First, I wouldn’t use quotes around “works” if you’re trying to convince people.” Astrologers and other wooists never do explain what “works” means do they?

  70. Mary

    Who said “Millionaires don’t use astrology, billionaires do”?

    None other than JP Morgan. Those who understand the science associated with astrology’s prescient arts haven’t lost a penny in the stock market—myself included—because we’ve known for months exactly how these developments would unfold.

    In fact, we all hoped that the information was somehow wrong because it foretold the diastrous circumstances we now see playing out on a daily basis. Wish I could tell you that improvement is on the way; it just isn’t.

    Curious? Looking for a way to justify your unfounded opinion? Go to this website: http://www.mmacycles.com. On the left, you will see Weekly Review.
    Read some of the commentary that took place in late 2007/early 2008.
    Soon, you will see.

  71. @Deepak,
    Bwahahahahahaha

    @A Real Astrologer,
    Bwahahahahahaha

    @Mang said “As for brokers if they really had this great inside information wouldn’t they keep it to themselves and get rich rather than spreading the “wealth”.”
    Not quite. Brokers are on an even better deal. They use yourmoney and your risk and they charge you for the privilege. Whether you win or lose they still get their money.

    There is only one thing to know when buying into the market and it really is just this simple – buy in gloom and sell in boom. We’ve had years of boom and now, finally, we’re in a buyers market. Of course nothing is guaranteed. When the market really goes belly up it is going to take a few “good” stocks with it but a good chunk of the blue chippers currently heading south will bounce back. Eventually. And, god, some good stocks are cheap now. Caveat – I’m referring to the Australian stock market to which I am familiar with.

  72. KC

    Mary:

    Since it’s been obvious that we’ve been in a bear market since the second week of October, 2007, that prediction isn’t as impressive as it sounds.

  73. KC

    Shane:

    The big question is like the Limbo song: How low will it go? The volatility is, I think, a due to the urge to pick up stocks at fire-sale prices, and those who already have them deciding to bail. That in itself may mean we’re near the bottom, but keep in mind that we can have reverse bubbles, with undervalued stocks caused by irrational fears.

    I’m still taking a wait and see attitude. I prefer to minimize my risks rather than maximize profits.

  74. Greg in Austin

    @Mary,

    “Those who understand the science associated with astrology’s prescient arts haven’t lost a penny in the stock market—myself included—because we’ve known for months exactly how these developments would unfold.”

    If you’ve known for months exactly how things would go, then you must have made millions… oops, I’m sorry… billions recently betting that the stock market would crash. You must be super rich, because you have all the answers right in front of you.

    And of course, all of your Astrology associates can say the same thing, right? You are all billionaires, of course, because you have used the same science to know exactly when to buy and when to sell, right? And nobody that hasn’t listened to or believed such things has ever made a dime in the stock market? And none of your predictions have ever turned out false?

    Could it be that Astrological predictions are no better than, or sometimes worse than, random chance?

    I looked at that website. It looks to me that it is not predicting anything, but trying to use Astrological mumbo-jumbo to explain past events, and to sell books. That is not in any way scientific. If you would like, take a few minutes to google “steps of the scientific method” and follow the first link. Pay special attention to that last part, where you determine if your hypothesis was True or False, and report that data. Then show us some reports that show the statistics of Astrological predictions that are True more often than they are False. Then, maybe I would consider Astrology a real science.

    8)

  75. kuhnigget

    @ Greg:

    “If you’ve known for months exactly how things would go, then you must have made millions… oops, I’m sorry… billions recently”

    Oh, c’mon, Greg! You know real astrologers would never use their powers for such crass purposes! They’re here to help others, not make money! Heh. Heh-heh.

    And as for the “mechanism” by which astrology works…please! Everybody knows it’s…(wait for it…)…plasma!

  76. A clairvoyant once predicted that the stupid, it would burn. And lo and behold; it burns indeed. Aaaaaghh!!!

  77. Greg in Austin

    I’ve noticed that whenever anyone asks an Astrologer (or Astrology believer) a direct question, they are unwilling to answer.

    Is it because they feel they are under personal attack, or that they cannot argue their point in a blog that is heavily sided toward science and fact?

    Just curious.

    8)

  78. Davidlpf

    How is astologer similar to dark matter, dark matter is predicted by observations, astrology makes predictions that are based off of observations. Since both are from observations, are either make predictions or are predicted therefore they are they are the same.

  79. Greg in Austin

    @Davidlpf,

    Here’s the difference: If the predictions regarding dark matter are found to be false (by means of observation) then the theory of dark matter would no longer be accepted. Just like a flat earth, a geocentric universe, or mice spontaneously appearing overnight from a jar of bread are no longer accepted beliefs.

    When you use astrology to make predictions, and the results are found to be false, then you should not accept it.

    Dark matter, gravity, electromagnetism, evolution, etc. are all observed, and can all be repeated. You can repeat experiments in electricity over and over again, and get the same result. Astrology cannot be repeated over and over and get the same results.

    8)

  80. Davidlpf

    Or I was being a completely sarcistic.

  81. Greg in Austin

    @Davidlpf

    Do you mean “sarcastic?” If so, I couldn’t tell. Perhaps I was distracted by your poor grammar.

    @Mary,

    Do you have a source for that quote from JP Morgan? I can find it used on dozens of Astrology websites, but I can’t seem to find the source of the original quote. While it may be true that JP Morgan used an Astrologer (as did many people at that time), most of the science that has debunked Astrology over and over happened much later in the 20th century.

    8)

  82. Davidlpf

    Yes sarcastic, sorry I could not think of another of putting it.

  83. Gonzo

    Deepak says: Dear Phil, request you to kindly take couple of courses on Astrology, understand it in detail and then put forth your views. After going through it in detail you may want to tone your comments down.

    Oh man, someone offers courses in this crap!! Who’s the instructor? Sarah Palin?

  84. irish

    I’ve taken some time to read each of these comments, and after some consideration, I’m convinced that people who believe in astrology probably do so more fervently because the people who DON’T are so incredibly arrogant and elitist.

    Apparently people who have any scientific knowledge only want to use it to demean other people and to make themselves more pompous; mocking and looking down your long pointy noses at others does not help them learn your truth or convince them that your stance is honest.

    The arrogance of your attitudes testify to the fact that knowing something does not make you more wise.

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