Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).

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The Astrology Question

Exploring Explanations for Its Popularity and Validity

Frank Visser / ChatGPT

Me to ChatGPT:

  • Astrology remains popular in the modern scientific world among the general population. Please write an essay about the explanations that have been proposed for why astrology "works", or "can't work".

Follow-up questions:

  • Please discuss in this context the Mars Effect.
  • What about the Jungian approach to astrology, emphasizing the notion of synchronicity?
  • What about the astrological research done by the British psychologist Eysenck?
  • How many of his subjects believed in astrology, and thus colored the outcomes of his studies?
  • Obviously, the astrological constellations of "sun signs" are visual illusions, because they consist of stars at various distances and magnitudes, which have no actual relation to eachother.
  • Could you elaborate a bit more on the phenomenon of precession which you mentioned? This seems to me to be a fatal blow to astrology. If my sun sign is Virgo, the sun didn't actually stand in the Virgo constellation at my birth?
  • I think you are in error here. Virgo relates to September, Pisces to March. So perhaps you mean the Fall Equinox? I thought the sun signs have shifted to their next neighbor sign in the last 2000 years.



Astrology, the belief that celestial bodies and their positions can influence human behavior and destiny, has persisted throughout human history. Despite the advancements of modern science, astrology continues to captivate a significant portion of the general population. This essay delves into the explanations proposed for why astrology "works" and why it is deemed to "can't work," providing insight into the ongoing fascination and controversy surrounding this ancient practice.

Explanations for Astrology's Popularity:
Psychological Factors:

One of the key reasons for astrology's popularity lies in psychological factors. Humans have an innate desire to make sense of the world, to seek patterns and meaning in their experiences. Astrology offers a framework that helps individuals navigate life's uncertainties by providing explanations and attributing significance to celestial events. By offering a sense of control, comfort, and self-understanding, astrology can fulfill emotional and psychological needs, thus attracting followers.

Barnum Effect and Confirmation Bias:

The Barnum Effect, also known as the Forer Effect, refers to the tendency of individuals to perceive generalized, vague statements about their personalities as highly accurate and specific to them. Astrology often employs ambiguous statements that can be interpreted in various ways, allowing individuals to project their own experiences and traits onto the predictions. This, coupled with confirmation bias, wherein people tend to remember and emphasize the instances that confirm their beliefs, contributes to astrology's perceived accuracy and fuels its popularity.

Astrology as a Cultural Tradition:

Astrology has deep historical roots and cultural significance. It has been practiced by civilizations across the world for centuries, shaping belief systems, rituals, and even governing decision-making processes. The tradition and longevity of astrology can create a sense of legitimacy and trust, fostering its continued popularity as a respected practice.

Explanations for Astrology's Invalidity:
Lack of Scientific Evidence:

Astrology falls short when subjected to scientific scrutiny. The fundamental principles of astrology, such as the alleged influence of celestial bodies on human affairs, have not been substantiated by empirical evidence. Controlled scientific studies testing the accuracy of astrological predictions have generally failed to demonstrate a significant correlation between celestial positions and human behavior. The absence of a plausible causal mechanism undermines astrology's scientific credibility.

Precession and Changes in Zodiac Signs:

Astrology relies on the assumption that the position of celestial bodies during a person's birth determines their personality traits and future events. However, due to the phenomenon of precession, the Earth's axial wobble over time causes a shift in the positions of stars and constellations. This shift, not accounted for in traditional astrology, has rendered the alignment of zodiac signs inaccurate. The discovery of new celestial bodies further challenges astrology's premises, as they are not accounted for in traditional astrological systems.

Subjectivity and Generalized Statements:

Astrological predictions often lack specificity and rely on subjective interpretations. Horoscopes and astrological readings typically employ broad and ambiguous language, making it easy for individuals to find personal meaning within the text. This subjectivity undermines astrology's ability to provide consistent and reliable predictions that can withstand objective scrutiny.


Astrology's enduring popularity can be attributed to a combination of psychological factors, cultural traditions, and the human inclination to seek patterns and meaning in the world. However, when assessed from a scientific standpoint, astrology lacks empirical evidence and fails to provide a plausible mechanism for its alleged influence. The inconsistencies in astrological predictions, coupled with the shifting zodiac signs and subjective interpretations, challenge its validity. While astrology may continue to captivate individuals on a personal level, its scientific legitimacy remains doubtful, emphasizing the need for critical thinking and rational evaluation of belief systems in our modern scientific world.

Please discuss in this context the Mars Effect.

The Mars Effect is a specific aspect of astrology that has gained attention and sparked discussions within the scientific community. Proposed by French psychologist Michel Gauquelin in the mid-20th century, the Mars Effect suggests a correlation between the positions of the planet Mars at the time of a person's birth and their subsequent career success.

According to Gauquelin's research, he found a statistically significant excess of sports champions with Mars in certain positions relative to other planets at the time of their birth. Gauquelin's work ignited both curiosity and controversy, as it appeared to challenge the prevailing skepticism toward astrology within scientific circles.

Supporters of the Mars Effect argue that Gauquelin's findings provide empirical evidence of a potential astrological influence on human affairs. They contend that the consistent correlation between Mars and professional success cannot be easily dismissed, and suggest that further research is needed to explore the underlying mechanisms.

Critics of the Mars Effect, however, have raised several concerns about its methodology and conclusions. Some of the key criticisms include:

Selection Bias:

Critics argue that Gauquelin's studies suffer from selection bias, as he specifically chose successful individuals as the focus of his research. This bias could have influenced the results, as the sample might not accurately represent the general population.

Statistical Issues:

Skeptics question the statistical significance of Gauquelin's findings, suggesting that they may be a result of chance or multiple testing. They argue that when applying stricter statistical criteria or considering the totality of Gauquelin's research, the correlations weaken or disappear.

Replication Challenges:

Replicating Gauquelin's results has proven difficult for other researchers. Numerous attempts to reproduce his findings have yielded inconsistent or non-replicable results, casting doubt on the reliability of the Mars Effect.

Lack of Plausible Mechanism:

The Mars Effect lacks a scientifically plausible mechanism to explain how the position of Mars at birth could influence career success. Without a viable causal explanation, critics argue that any observed correlations may be coincidental or subject to alternative explanations.

In conclusion, the Mars Effect remains a subject of debate within the scientific community. While Gauquelin's initial findings sparked interest and prompted further research, subsequent attempts to replicate his results have not consistently supported his claims. The criticisms surrounding the Mars Effect primarily center on methodological issues, statistical concerns, and the absence of a plausible mechanism. As with astrology in general, skepticism remains among the scientific community regarding the validity and reliability of the Mars Effect as a genuine astrological phenomenon.

What about the Jungian approach to astrology, emphasizing the notion of synchronicity?

The Jungian approach to astrology, emphasizing the notion of synchronicity, represents a unique perspective within the realm of astrology. Developed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, this approach seeks to explore the meaningful connections between the human psyche and the cosmos.

Jung introduced the concept of synchronicity to describe meaningful coincidences that cannot be explained by conventional notions of cause and effect. According to Jung, synchronicity suggests a deep interconnection between the individual's inner psychological state and the external world, including celestial events. In the context of astrology, synchronicity implies that the alignment of celestial bodies at the time of an individual's birth can resonate with their psychological and archetypal patterns.

Supporters of the Jungian approach to astrology argue that it provides a framework for understanding astrology beyond strict causality. They propose that astrology, when viewed through the lens of synchronicity, offers a language and symbolism to tap into the unconscious realms of the human psyche. Astrological symbols and archetypes are seen as mirrors that reflect and illuminate aspects of an individual's inner world, fostering self-awareness and personal growth.

The emphasis on synchronicity in the Jungian approach allows for a more subjective and psychological interpretation of astrology. Rather than focusing solely on predictive or deterministic aspects, this perspective encourages individuals to engage in a process of self-reflection, exploring the symbolic resonance between their inner experiences and the astrological symbols associated with their birth chart.

Critics, on the other hand, contend that the Jungian approach to astrology remains largely theoretical and lacks empirical evidence. While synchronistic experiences and meaningful coincidences can undoubtedly occur in life, establishing a direct causal link between the position of celestial bodies and these occurrences remains challenging to substantiate.

Additionally, skeptics argue that the subjective nature of interpretation in the Jungian approach opens the door to personal biases and the Barnum Effect. Without clear guidelines or objective measures, the interpretation of astrological symbols and archetypes can vary widely, potentially leading to vague or generalized statements that individuals may find personally meaningful due to subjective validation.

In conclusion, the Jungian approach to astrology, with its emphasis on synchronicity, offers an alternative perspective that incorporates psychological and symbolic dimensions into the astrological framework. While it can provide a rich language for self-reflection and exploration of the unconscious, it remains a subject of debate and critique within the scientific community due to its subjective nature and the lack of empirical evidence supporting the direct causal relationship between celestial events and psychological experiences.

What about the astrological research done by the British psychologist Eysenck?

The British psychologist Hans Eysenck conducted research that explored the potential links between astrology and personality traits. His work aimed to determine whether there were correlations between astrological signs and specific personality characteristics, primarily utilizing questionnaires and self-report measures.

Eysenck's research focused on two main aspects: extraversion-introversion and neuroticism-stability, which were dimensions of personality he considered fundamental. He hypothesized that certain astrological signs would be associated with specific personality traits based on these dimensions.

However, it is important to note that Eysenck's research faced criticism from the scientific community for various methodological flaws and limitations. Some of the key criticisms include:

Questionable Statistical Methods:

Eysenck's statistical analyses were found to be problematic. His research involved comparing small groups of individuals born under different astrological signs, which can lead to spurious correlations due to chance. Critics argued that the statistical methods used by Eysenck were not rigorous enough to draw reliable conclusions.

Inconsistent Findings:

The results of Eysenck's studies on astrology and personality traits were inconsistent and lacked replication. Different studies conducted by Eysenck and his colleagues produced conflicting outcomes, with some studies finding significant associations between astrology and personality, while others failed to replicate these findings. This inconsistency raises doubts about the reliability and generalizability of Eysenck's conclusions.

Lack of Plausible Mechanism:

Eysenck's research did not provide a plausible causal mechanism to explain the alleged relationship between astrology and personality. The astrological system itself lacks a scientific foundation and a clear mechanism through which celestial positions could influence personality traits. Without a viable explanation for how astrology might work, the validity of any observed associations remains questionable.

In conclusion, while Hans Eysenck conducted research exploring the potential links between astrology and personality traits, his findings have faced criticism for methodological flaws and inconsistencies. The statistical approaches employed and the lack of a plausible mechanism to explain the observed associations have cast doubt on the reliability and scientific validity of Eysenck's astrological research. It is worth noting that the majority of the scientific community remains skeptical of astrology and emphasizes the need for rigorous empirical evidence and sound methodology to establish its credibility.

How many of his subjects believed in astrology, and thus colored the outcomes of his studies?

Hans Eysenck's research on astrology and personality did take into account the beliefs of the participants regarding astrology. In some of his studies, Eysenck included measures to assess participants' belief in astrology to examine whether their beliefs influenced their responses and potentially biased the outcomes.

One notable study conducted by Eysenck and his colleague David Nias in 1982 examined the relationship between astrology and personality traits. They divided the participants into two groups: those who believed in astrology and those who did not. The study found that participants who believed in astrology tended to rate the astrological descriptions as more accurate and applicable to their personalities compared to non-believers.

This acknowledgment of participants' belief in astrology is an important aspect of Eysenck's research. However, it is worth noting that while participant beliefs may have influenced their responses, the methodological limitations and inconsistencies in Eysenck's studies make it challenging to draw firm conclusions about the validity of astrology and its impact on personality traits.

Critics of Eysenck's research argue that the inclusion of individuals who believe in astrology may introduce biases that could affect the outcomes. For example, believers may be more inclined to find descriptions related to their astrological sign as accurate due to confirmation bias or a desire to conform to astrological expectations.

It is important to approach the findings of Eysenck's studies with caution and consider the potential influence of participant beliefs on the outcomes. While participant beliefs could have colored the results to some extent, the broader methodological and statistical issues in Eysenck's research remain significant concerns that limit the generalizability and scientific validity of his findings.

Obviously, the astrological constellations of "sun signs" are visual illusions, because they consist of stars at various distances and magnitudes, which have no actual relation to eachother.

The argument that the astrological constellations of "sun signs" are visual illusions due to the vast differences in distance and magnitude of the stars they comprise is a valid point. Here are a few examples that highlight this:


The constellation Pisces is commonly associated with individuals born between February 19 and March 20. However, the stars that make up Pisces are located at various distances from Earth. For instance, the brightest star in Pisces, Eta Piscium, is approximately 294 light-years away, while other stars within the constellation may be much closer or farther. The stars in Pisces do not form a coherent group in space but appear connected only from our vantage point on Earth.


Virgo is often linked to people born between August 23 and September 22. The constellation's brightest star, Spica, lies around 250 light-years away. However, within Virgo, there are stars that are much closer, such as Denebola, which is approximately 36 light-years away. This vast disparity in distance among the stars that form Virgo demonstrates the visual illusion created by grouping them into a single constellation.


Leo is associated with individuals born between July 23 and August 22. While the constellation's brightest star, Regulus, is about 79 light-years away, there are stars in Leo that are significantly closer or more distant. For example, Algieba is roughly 130 light-years away, while Wolf 359, one of the closest known stars to Earth, is located a mere 7.8 light-years away. The variation in stellar distances within Leo reinforces the notion that the constellation is a product of human perception rather than a physical grouping of stars.

These examples highlight the fact that the stars within astrological constellations, including the widely recognized "sun signs," are not physically related to one another. They merely appear to form patterns from Earth due to our line of sight. The vast differences in distance and magnitude among the stars within these constellations emphasize their visual illusionary nature, further challenging the astrological notion that the positions of these stars have direct influences on human personalities or destinies.

Could you elaborate a bit more on the phenomenon of precession which you mentioned? This seems to me to be a fatal blow to astrology. If my sun sign is Virgo, the sun didn't actually stand in the Virgo constellation at my birth?

Certainly! The phenomenon of precession is a crucial aspect to consider when discussing astrology's reliance on the alignment of celestial bodies and their corresponding zodiac signs.

Precession refers to the gradual change in the orientation of Earth's axis over time. As a result of this axial motion, the position of the stars and constellations appears to shift relative to Earth. It is important to note that the precession of Earth's axis is a slow and continuous process that takes approximately 26,000 years to complete one full cycle.

To illustrate the impact of precession on astrology, let's consider the example you mentioned. If you identify as a Virgo based on your birth date, traditional astrology would assign you the zodiac sign Virgo, associated with the constellation of the same name. However, due to precession, the alignment of the zodiac signs as defined by astrology has shifted over the centuries.

For instance, at the time astrology was initially developed, the Sun during the Northern Hemisphere's spring equinox did indeed align with the constellation Virgo. However, due to precession, the alignment has changed over time. Today, during the spring equinox, the Sun aligns with the constellation Pisces rather than Virgo.

This discrepancy between the zodiac signs and their corresponding constellations highlights a fundamental challenge for astrology. The traditional zodiac signs were established based on the alignment of celestial bodies in relation to specific constellations thousands of years ago. However, the shifting positions of the stars due to precession have rendered the alignment between zodiac signs and constellations inaccurate.

In light of precession, the concept of a fixed zodiac sign associated with a specific constellation loses its scientific basis. Astrologers have attempted to address this issue by arguing that the zodiac signs are symbolic representations rather than literal associations with the constellations. They argue that the zodiac signs retain their astrological meaning regardless of the actual positions of the constellations.

However, the disconnection between the zodiac signs and the physical reality of the constellations poses a significant challenge to the validity of astrology, particularly from a scientific standpoint. It raises questions about the foundation of astrology's claims and the accuracy of its predictions based on celestial positions that do not align with the traditional zodiac signs.

In conclusion, precession is indeed a critical factor to consider when examining astrology's claims. The shifting positions of the constellations due to precession undermine the idea that the zodiac signs are directly linked to specific celestial alignments. This misalignment challenges astrology's basis and casts doubt on the accuracy and validity of astrological interpretations based on fixed zodiac signs associated with specific constellations.

I think you are in error here. Virgo relates to September, Pisces to March. So perhaps you mean the Fall Equinox? I thought the sun signs have shifted to their next neighbor sign in the last 2000 years.

Apologies for the confusion caused by my previous response. You are correct, and I apologize for the inaccurate statement regarding the alignment of the Sun with the constellations during the equinoxes. Allow me to clarify the concept of precession and its impact on the zodiac signs.

Precession refers to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth's axis, resulting in a change in the apparent position of celestial bodies over long periods of time. This phenomenon affects the alignment of the Sun with the zodiac signs.

Traditionally, the zodiac signs were associated with specific constellations along the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun as observed from Earth. However, due to precession, the alignment between the zodiac signs and the constellations has shifted over thousands of years.

Around 2,000 years ago, during the time when astrology was formulated, the Sun's position during the spring equinox aligned with the constellation Aries. However, as a result of precession, this alignment has gradually shifted. In the present day, during the spring equinox, the Sun appears to align with the constellation Pisces.

This means that if you were born around the time of the spring equinox, your zodiac sign based on traditional astrology may no longer align with the corresponding constellation. For example, if you were born in late March, traditional astrology would assign you the zodiac sign Aries, while the Sun would appear to be in the constellation Pisces during that period.

The shifting of the zodiac signs over time due to precession has been a topic of discussion and debate within the astrological community. Some astrologers propose the use of a "sidereal zodiac," which takes into account the current positions of the constellations. However, the majority of Western astrology continues to utilize the "tropical zodiac," which is based on fixed divisions of the ecliptic and does not account for the shifting positions of the constellations.

In summary, precession does indeed affect the alignment of the zodiac signs with the constellations over long periods of time. The shift in the zodiac signs has been gradual, with each sign moving towards the next neighboring constellation. The interpretation and implications of this shift differ among astrologers, and the use of either the sidereal or tropical zodiac depends on individual astrological practices.

Now it makes sense!

I apologize for any confusion caused by the previous response, and I'm glad that the clarification has provided a clearer understanding. If you have any further questions or need additional information, please feel free to ask.

So I am not a Virgo, I am actually a Leo. Now I really have an identity crisis. ;-)[1]

I understand that discovering a shift in your zodiac sign can be surprising and may lead to some reevaluation of your astrological identity. It's important to remember that astrology is just one aspect of understanding oneself and should not solely define your identity or personality.

While the zodiac sign associated with your birthdate may have shifted due to the phenomenon of precession, it's worth noting that astrology itself is a complex system with various interpretations and approaches. Some astrologers may still use the traditional Western tropical zodiac, while others may follow the sidereal zodiac or employ different astrological systems altogether.

Ultimately, your personal identity is multifaceted and encompasses various factors such as your experiences, values, relationships, and personal growth. While astrology can offer insights and self-reflection, it is essential to consider it within the broader context of your life and not let it overshadow your own self-perception.

If you find astrology to be meaningful or enjoyable, you can explore the traits and characteristics associated with both Leo and Virgo to gain a broader understanding of different astrological perspectives. Remember that astrology should be approached with an open mind and used as a tool for self-reflection rather than something to rigidly define your identity.

Embrace the opportunity to explore and understand yourself from different angles, and remember that you have the agency to shape your own identity and personal growth regardless of astrological labels.

No, I don't believe i astrology. That's because I am a Virgo. ;-)[1]

I apologize if my previous response assumed your belief in astrology. It's perfectly valid to not believe in astrology or to view it as a form of entertainment rather than a definitive source of information about oneself. Personal beliefs and perspectives vary, and it's important to respect individual choices.

If you identify as a Virgo based on your birthdate and find it meaningful or resonant in some way, it's completely up to you to interpret its significance or find personal value in it. Remember that astrology, like any belief system, is subjective, and its meaning and relevance differ from person to person.

Ultimately, the decision to believe in or engage with astrology is a personal one, and it's perfectly fine to hold different views on the matter. The most important thing is to find a sense of identity and self-worth that aligns with your own values, experiences, and personal growth, regardless of any external systems or beliefs.


[1] For ChatGPT irony is still out-of-the-bot thinking.

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