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United States Science

Majority of Young American Adults Think Astrology Is a Science 625

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the where's-carl-sagan-when-you-need-him? dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Americans have always had a strange fascination with astrology. First Lady Nancy Reagan famously employed the services of an astrologer after the assassination attempt on her husband. Now UPI reports that according to a new survey by the National Science Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say astrology is either 'very' or 'sort of' scientific. Younger respondents, in particular, were the least likely to regard astrology as unscientific, with 58% of 18 to 24 years olds saying that astrology is scientific (PDF). What's most alarming is that American attitudes about science are moving in the wrong direction. Skepticism of astrology hit an all-time high in 2004, when 66 percent of Americans said astrology was total nonsense. But each year, fewer and fewer respondents have dismissed the connections between star alignment and personality as bunk. Among respondents in the 25 — 44 age group 49% of respondents in the 2012 survey said astrology is either 'very scientific' or 'sort of scientific,' up from 36% in 2010. So what's behind this data? The lead author of the report chapter in question, public opinion specialist John Besley of Michigan State University, cautions that we should probably wait for further data 'to see if it's a real change' before speculating. But, he admits, the apparent increase in astrology belief 'popped out to me when I saw it.'"
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Majority of Young American Adults Think Astrology Is a Science

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  • And in other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Type44Q (1233630) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:53AM (#46227901)
    Majority of Young American Adults Think a Comma is Nike's "Swoosh" Symbol.
  • More likely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OblongPlatypus (233746) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:54AM (#46227907)

    The decrease in astrology's visibility (people no longer read magazines, and "horoscope blogs" don't seem to have become a thing) may just have led to most young people not having a clue and assuming astrology = astronomy.

  • And they vote! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fastgriz (1052034) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:57AM (#46227921)
    Explains the government we have.
  • Typo/misread? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:57AM (#46227923)

    If I was skimming a survey that asked about scientific topics I'd probably read "astrology" as "astronomy" by accident. I'd possibly even chalk it up to a typo and deliberately substitute the two. I'm reading the paper right now to see if they accounted for this.

  • Racism is better! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:05AM (#46227997) Journal
    Start about 4 minutes in [videosift.com].
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:07AM (#46228009) Homepage
    There's prior evidence that higher education and intelligence levels lead to rejection of astrology. See http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-less-intelligent-more-likely-to-accept-astrology-as-scientific/ [unz.com]. However, astrology is more commonly believed on the left than on the right end of the political spectrum as measured by self-identified conservatives or liberals. See the prior link where about only 65% of liberals declare astrology to be not at all scientific as opposed to about 75% of conservatives.. (In general a lot of different pseudoscientific beliefs end up being more or less common on one end of the political spectrum, although these can change over time, such as anti-vaccination attitudes becoming more common on the right after the HPV vaccine came out.) The correlation is not that strong, but there has been a left-ward trend in the US in the last few years. It is possible that memetic drag has thus increased the belief in astrology.
  • by WillAdams (45638) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:07AM (#46228015) Homepage

    that astrology is intended as nothing more than entertainment --- the ``forecasts'' in a given newspaper each day are chosen from a set of a number of different forecasts, each of which is intended to fill up a different amount of space, e.g., if newspaper A has 1/2 a page to allot to them, they use the 1/2pg. filler version, if newspaper B only sold a 1-col ad for the astrology page, then they use the 5/6pg. filler version.

  • Re: More likely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dayze!Confused (717774) <slashdot,org&ohyonghao,com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:09AM (#46228031) Homepage Journal

    This is why Neil deGrasse Tyson prefers the term astro physics.

  • Re:More likely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:14AM (#46228077) Homepage

    Considering that people believe that BMI is an actual method to measure body fat? I wouldn't doubt it.

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:46AM (#46228393) Homepage Journal
    Astrology used to keep astronomers fed. And, the observations that used to accompany astrology became the basis for astronomical advances. As a proto-science, astrology has appeared in Jungian archetypal motifs in psychology as well as sharing vocabulary with astronomy and planetary science. There are connections between astrology and these sciences just as there are between alchemy and both chemistry and nuclear physics or between herbalism and pharmacology.
  • by sudden.zero (981475) <sudden.zeroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:08AM (#46228601)
    Ask them to find anything on a map for that matter. http://news.nationalgeographic... [nationalgeographic.com]
  • Re:Let's face it ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:52AM (#46228993)

    What the theocrats in this country have failed to understand: When you raise a generation lacking critical thinking skills to further your own agenda, they will become susceptible to any and all ideologies. On the other hand, perhaps that's the idea. Its not so much about a belief in a god, its about raising an army that is easily led.

  • by pr0fessor (1940368) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:53AM (#46229009)

    I went to a parent teacher conference when my son was in junior high and was excited to get to talk to his science teacher. I loved my junior high and high school science classes because we did experiments and it was fun.

    I was very disappointed to find out that my son would not have that experience, because their insurance wouldn't cover it.

    We have done more than a few of the experiments I could remember from school in the garage.

  • Re:More likely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by houghi (78078) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:59AM (#46229077)

    If people ask what my sign is, I always tell them : Elephant. For those who ask further and/or realize there is no such a sign (not even with a Chinese one) I say "Why not? I have a trunk!"

    One time people said they were really serious about Astrology. The type of person who was constantly telling "Typical [insert sign]". So I challenged them to tell me my sign. They needed 12 guesses. Let that sink in. 12!

    Palm-reading is on the same level. I witnessed a palm-reading once in Turkey. I was baffled as to why people would believe the person reading the palm. I did not understand, not because of the image you have in your head. This was not some Turkish Gypsy old woman. This was one of our own group of 18-22 year olds Western Europeans with good education. Not only that. He upfront told everybody he did NOT believe in hand-reading. He told he NEVER read a palm. He knew nothing about it. He upfront told that he would make stuff up and be very generic. He even gave examples UPFRONT.
    He took the hand, looked at it, put on a serious face and started making things up about past, present and future. Various people believed him, including the person whose hand was read. They still believed what he told was true after he told them several times that he made it up.

    A last one: when you have the opportunity to read other people their horoscope, ask them their sign and read out a different one (yours). Next ask them how precise it is. Say you do not believe and say you will read another one (theirs) and say it is yours. Ask them if they think that is also correct. Now you can tell that it was not true.
    One flaw with this is that you could have a 1/12 chance that you have the same sign. Cheaters would pick some random sign, but what it means is that you found your true soul partner.

  • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @01:28PM (#46229945) Journal

    While on par with most religious beliefs, at least astrology has some basis in science. Planetary positions and angular relationships between those planets isn't something that astrologers make up. The data is largely calculated from ephemeris (usually the Swiss ephemeris) and there is a lot of math involved.

    If religion had as much science as astrology, everyone would believe in god.

    The only thing not science about astrology is the interpreted meanings of the positions and angular relationships.

  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @01:41PM (#46230049)

    I bet Norwegian children ignore their teachers and keep score, just like American kids when faced with the same instructions.

    If they don't I fear for the future of Norway. Bunch of stinking law abiders.

  • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @02:06PM (#46230319) Homepage Journal

    Blowing off a mod point to post this. But I want to see any responses, so I don't want to AC this.

    Bringing this back on topic, an increasing number of young people use the word "science" in its older sense, back when it meant an internally self-consistent body of knowledge. Back before the experimental method was described. In the original sense of the word, astrology is a science, just as the medicine of ancient Greece was a science, or artists' study of color theory, perspective, and proportion is a science.

    The real question is why so many youngsters today are using the word "science" in this larger sense? I think the answer has to do with their early exposure to fractals, to strange attractors and butterfly effects, and to the mixing of eurocentric world views with the world views of India and east Asia.

    It might be that the apparent increase in belief in astrology has more to do with a shift in how the word "science" is now used among young people. Among those under 30 yo, talking about the science of acupuncture, or the science of yoga or of meditation is not uncommon. In this sense, the science of astrology fits right in.

    What would be interesting is if the poll had also asked the question, "Does astrology have less, as much, or more impact on your daily life as chemistry and physics?" I would guess the answer to that would show no significant change over the years.

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