WhatsApp groups have given email forwards a new life. They are waiting for us every morning. Warnings against ‘Appy Fizz’, motivational quotes that ruin the day etc. etc. These I have made peace with. More recently a friend of mine has been sending zodiac related garbage on our erstwhile unblemished group. Scratch that, it’s not even garbage because even garbage can be recycled. This is pure useless baloney.
To be clear, it’s not that I don’t ‘believe’ in it. I don’t like things that I have to believe in. Something can exist, or it cannot. Or it could be that we don’t know. Belief in something shouldn’t be the only thing keeping it alive. Either we know or we don’t know. I don’t have to believe in astrology. Several scientific studies have confirmed that it is pseudoscience, at best its chance at work.
More than religion, astrology bugs me. Religions might be worse but I can understand the need to have faith in a higher power. Religion admits its chronic dependence on faith. Astrology masquerades itself as a science. Drawing in those that claim to be rational people. This is beyond my understanding.
Proponents of astrology argue that it’s harmless when they lose all other arguments. It’s not just harmless fun. People make life decisions based on a pseudoscience. Open a matrimonial site. Alliances are made and unmade on the basis of celestial positions.
Women are more prone to believing in it, making them prime targets. Open the website of the ‘most read women’s English magazine in India’. Its name is close to the word feminist but it’s character far from it. An ‘astro’ tab pops out. Click on it to see the various services offered by astrologers. They take calls depending on your budget. Anywhere from ₹45 – 300 a minute. Yes, ₹300 a minute! That’s ₹18,000 an hour. Exactly 1500 packets of Maggi! Further a one-time general consult costs around ₹2,000 and a detailed life chart around ₹10,000. Sometimes you might need to wear a certain stone to negate the effects of rahu/ketu and the likes. The stones are also available for a paltry sum of ₹20-30,000 k. In the time it took me to write this article I could have made around ₹50,000 as an astrologer if I was morally ok with being a fraud and preying on people’s troubles.
Economics aside, belief in astrology is a product of confirmation and cognitive bias. The former is self-explanatory, the latter implies ignoring evidence that contradicts one’s own beliefs. Zodiac signs and their characteristics are fueled by and add to our own prejudices. The most ardent believers believe in astrology subconsciously confirm their lives and personality to match their zodiac sign. Those that are believers of Indian astrology do the same. The use it to excuse their bad behaviour or personal failings. We have heard it “Oh I can’t help it, I am a Gemini.” Are you in a circus? Be whoever you want to be. Good, bad or ugly. Understand that it’s a choice and has nothing to do with Mars or Venus. “I can’t help falling for the wrong person. Venus is my planet.” Venus isn’t going to live with the consequences of your bad decisions, you are.
More recently the world of astrology was thrown into disarray when ‘NASA discovered a 13th zodiac sign’. NASA did no such thing. The Babylonians gave us the zodiac signs. Each sign represents the constellation through which the Earth passes as it revolves around the sun. NASA simply said, “Um wait there are 13 such constellations.” But wait aren’t new scientific discoveries being made everyday? This wasn’t a confirmation of astrology. Yes, the constellations exist but they have no impact whatsoever on human health and well-being. Further, the Babylonians knew of all the 13 constellations but they used a 12-month calendar. So like all good astrologers they ignored the facts and cherrypicked their constellations. The current system is a fraud within a bigger fraud.
This discovery has rattled many followers. Does that mean Ariens are Taureans? Or Leo Librans? Will Geminis stop being dualistic? Will the Scorpion not sting anymore? That 13th sign is called Ociuphus. It has nothing to do with octopuses. It’s serpentine. Like Voldemort. Fictitious too.