The razor-sharp claws of the Cancer crab, the majestic presence of the Leo lion and the two identical faces of the Gemini twins are three of the 12 horoscopes signs astrologers use to aid in their interpretation of heavenly bodies.
Astrology, the study of how heavenly bodies supposedly affect human life and behavior, continues to counsel people on life decisions despite critics who claim that it is pure superstition.
Critics like John Blanton, webmaster for The North Texas Skeptics, say astrology is not a real science and claim stars and planets have no effect on human behavior.
“It’s interesting because it comes from astronomy,” Blanton said. “But astrology derives from it by saying stars are magical, omnipotent and their effect on our life is magical.”
TCU’s chair of the astronomy department, T.W. Zerda, claims astrology is a “bunch of nonsense.”
Astronomy is the science and study of the stars and universe, planets and its motion; it has no interpretation of what a star’s position in the sky could mean in people’s lives, Zerda said.
Yet among those who believe a star’s location could foretell the future, Los Angeles astrologer Terence Guardino makes charts for clients in which he shows how planets were aligned on the day they were born.
Guardino claims that alignment explains the relationship between the universe and human life and why people behave the way they do. His Web site with astrology forecasts for the 12 sun signs gets about 1,000 hits a month. This number excludes the hits he gets from YouTube, where he said he received about 40,000 hits in the past year.
Unlike other Web sites, Guardino said, his pages provide astrological forecasts in a video format and include descriptions of the 12 horoscope personalities.
The North Texas Skeptics has been in existence since 1983 under a different name, and its goal is to test theories and claims to provide people with the truth.
Blanton uses the term pseudoscience, a field that does not use the scientific method, and said people believe in things with paranormal links because it relieves them of personal responsibilities.
“People have reasons to believe, and it’s good to blame someone else for something,” he said.
Beyond throwing out personal responsibility, John Thomas, director emeritus for the NTS, said beliefs do not have to be true and it’s a matter of bringing comfort to people.
Blanton gives an example of a divorce – if a person’s marriage ended, it could easily be blamed in the stars and was therefore meant to happen.
“There is no consistency, it’s not established,” he said. “Authors who realize there is good money in this area could easily make something up and be perfectly all right.”
Thomas said astrology works because of confirmation bias, where the person who gets a reading hears something and will remember an event in his or her life, making the statement true.
“It’s cherry-picking the evidence,” Thomas said. “But people think it’s very comforting.”
Blanton said astrology is harmless, but people can get carried away and risk away things they may never get back.
“Don’t let it run your life,” Blanton said. “It’s a good recreational sport.”
Beyond a recreational sport, astrology can be linked with the occult.
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says “let no one be found among you … who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens … anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.”
Cky Carrigan, professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, says astrology is a form of divination, the practice of uncovering hidden secrets. He said the main issue concerning astrology for biblical scholars was ethics, not effectiveness.
“The Bible tells us not to engage in astrology – it’s clear in what it says,” Carrigan said. “Followers of Christ are not to follow divination.”
Ken Horton, pastor at McKinney Memorial Bible Church, recommends seeking God’s advice, rather than seeing an astrologer.
“You’re better off getting counseling from people who know you, rather than a speculation from a stranger,” Horton said.
Astrologers practice something called cold reading, a term that is given to magicians and psychics who use intuition to read how people react to different trigger words and actions, Horton said.
“There’s nothing magical about it,” he said.
As for the accuracy, Carrigan said it’s based on the odds of getting it right, making sure to incorporate emotional strings into things.
“There are intuitive people out there that listen well, look carefully and it works,” he said.
Carrigan said the effect of the reading is usually good because people go in wanting to believe.
“Hope is a powerful thing – it’s unfortunate for some of us who have hope for no good reason. Hoping someone will give us insight,” Carrigan said.
The American Federation of Astrologers, founded in 1938, provides safeguards and certification for astrologers, Guardino said.
The group certifies astrologers on the AFA student, professional and teacher levels.
Kepler College in Lynnwood, Wash., authorized by the state of Washington to give out academic degrees, offers a bachelor of arts and a graduate program in astrology, said Jolee Worones, registrar at Kepler College.
Worones said although Kepler College isn’t accredited they hope to have accreditation by the summer and are currently in the process of being accepted as a candidate by an accreditation agency. She would not disclose the name of the accrediting agency.
June Clark, who writes under the name June Rifkin, is senior associate for FinePrint Literary Management and a fan of Guardino’s forecasts.
Clark said her fascination for horoscopes and astrology started when she was a child, about 10, reading the horoscope section in magazines and reading books about the topic.
Her interest grew into belief and Clark co-authored “The Complete Book of Astrology,” with Ada Aubin, an astrologer. Although Clark says she is no astrologer, she takes her astrological forecast into consideration for her lifestyle.
“This is one of the few ‘new-age’ beliefs that has a more scientific approach and it’s accurate,” Clark said. “It’s much more reliable and there is a historical basis and has scientific flare – interpretation and artistic.”
Clark says knowing the astrological forecast is comforting to her, when she realizes there is a planetary reason to why her day is going the way it is.
Another supporter of astrology is Emily Lamport, introduced to the world of horoscopes by her best friend. Lamport, a 2007 alumna, started reading the horoscope section in the back of “Glamour” magazine.
Lamport said she never got into astrology until she was a sophomore at TCU.
“The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need,” a book she purchased at the TCU bookstore, provided Lamport with a personality description that made her a believer.
“It describes my personality perfectly,” she said. “I’m a Gemini and it was so cool to see what it said.”
Lamport said she’s become more intuitive through the book, recognizing personality traits of people.
“Instead of asking people what sign they are,” she said. “I ask them for their birthday.”
Lamport, who grew up in the Catholic Church, said she is “not religious” but believes in God.
“How lame would it be if you stuck to one thing and floated through life?” she asks. “Without questioning any thing like what’s going on with you and your life?”
For her, astrology is a way to prevent being narrow-minded.
“I can’t stand people who are narrow-minded – it’s just they only know certain ways, they don’t want to think different,” Lamport said.
“What works for me, works for me,” Clark said. “Everyone has their own opinion.”
With her experience in writing an astrology book, Clark is a strong advocate despite what skeptics say.
“I’m a huge fan of astrologyÃÂ – it gives insight and hope to life and I encourage people to follow it beyond the daily horoscope stuff,” she said.
Having dedicated his life to astrology, Guardino says, looking at the solar system is a profoundly accurate way of understanding human personality and behavior. He said astrology is one that entails knowledge in psychology and other sciences and the ability to interpret signs.
“I don’t have to prove it – their comments just wash over me, I’ve been doing this for 30 some years,” Guardino said.