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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 @08:53AM (#46227901)
    Majority of Young American Adults Think a Comma is Nike's "Swoosh" Symbol.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      The majority of young Americans think a burger is one of your five a day!
    • Just try to get them to find Paris France on a map!
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:54AM (#46228463) Homepage

      A majority of young adults are dumb as a box of rocks. and it's not their fault. It's that they had horrible parents that did not teach them anything and went to public school.

      Education in the United states is a complete and utter joke. As an adult that went through that system and had to have my father scream at teachers and administrators to do their frigging job, and myself had to do the same thing until I simply pulled my child from the worthless public school system and sent her to private school at great personal expense, I know how worthless it is. They teach to the common moron and we cant leave the dumb kids behind. Oh and we cant dare insult someone , little timmy loves the spegetti monster as his lord and savoir, we cant upset his family teaching that the world was not created in 3 days and is only 400 years old...

      Americans are poorly educated, and it has became so bad that todays young adults are less educated than the ones just one generation before because of being PC and how education is the bottom of the barrel budget wise.

      • by pr0fessor (1940368) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:53AM (#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.

    • Just remember 50% (Or damn close) of the population has below average intelligence.
      So you take half of the population with below average intelligence, then you add in a few percentage of people who just don't know better. Then you have the majority who say something stupid.

      Also it depends on how you word things.
      The question of how scientific is astrology is, Very, Somewhat, very Little, not at all. Could lead people who actually do not believe in astrology to answer the question to imply that they do.

      How S

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @01:23PM (#46230501) Homepage Journal

        Perhaps the problem is that a lot of young Americans don't know the difference between astronomy and astrology?

        Looking at your post it seems they're not alone.

        • I never stated that astronomy and astrology were the same... However Astrology was an earlier "study" of the stars, that allowed the back bone for real science of astronomy. As most of us look into space and we see the stars, we go well isn't that nice, however really sit back and make much sense out of it. Astrology was the first attempt to really make sense out of it. Its conclusions were wrong, but at least it fond a pattern in the seemingly random sky.
          This allowed the backbone for Astronomy to really

  • More likely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OblongPlatypus (233746) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:54AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LoRdTAW (99712)

      I'll second that. They are most likely mixing up the two words.

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

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:40AM (#46228319)

        When I was growing up in the 1970s, it was common for people at parties to ask "What's your sign?" and "Age of Aquairus" was playing on the radio. Today, I almost never hear about astrology. I find it hard to believe that is anywhere near as popular as it used to be. Hold on, let me go get some real world empirical data ... okay, I just asked my 15 year old daughter how many of her friends believe in astrology. Her response: "What's astrology?"

         

        • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:21AM (#46229283)

          Hold on, let me go get some real world empirical data ... okay, I just asked my 15 year old daughter how many of her friends believe in astrology. Her response: "What's astrology?"

          I see the problem with your data. The poll was for 18-25 year olds. Your daughter still has three more years of stupid to absorb from school before she can have an opinion.

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

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:00AM (#46229079)
        I read the .pdf, and I have this to say about it:

        I simply don't trust surveys that don't publish the exact questions they used.

        The wording, and how the questions are presented, are extremely important to the results. Most surveys are woefully unreliable anyway. But when you throw in the fact that you don't even know the actual questions asked, you might as well throw it away.

        I don't give a damn if it was the National Science Foundation that conducted the survey, or the National Creationism Organization. List your questions when reporting your results, or don't bother me at all.
    • Re: More likely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dayze!Confused (717774) <slashdot.org@ohy ... com minus author> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:09AM (#46228031) Homepage Journal

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

      • Re: More likely (Score:4, Insightful)

        by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:53AM (#46228449)

        Do you have a reference for that explanation?

        I have a hard time believing that deGrasse Tyson doesn't recognize astronomy and astrophysics as distinct disciplines. I certainly would believe that he prefers astrophysics to be called astrophysics, but there's plenty of astronomy outside of that. (Notably, amateur astronomy is not at all astrophysics.)

    • by fiziko (97143)

      Entirely possible. I used to mark assignments for a first-year University astronomy class, and about 6-7% of the students were upset that astrology wasn't included.

    • by microbox (704317)
      The anti-science movement seems to be very active as well: vaccines, intelligent design, life-at-conception, aliens, GMOs, homeopathy et al., agw denial...

      Everyone seems to pick and choose when they are pro-science depending on how pleasant the topic is to the ear.
    • Re:More likely (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MiniMike (234881) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:34AM (#46228245)

      most young people not having a clue and assuming astrology = astronomy.

      I find this only slightly less depressing.

    • Re:More likely (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bhagwad (1426855) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:53AM (#46228447) Homepage

      Unlikely. Most probably people are more and more depressed over the random nature the world and all the crap that can happen to them. Since astrology provides a nice safe structure to explain shit, it must be very comforting to believe in something...anything! Probably explains why people are still religious.

    • I tried to find the actual question wording, but didn't have time to do a thorough search. If the question was "Do you think astrology is scientific, sort of scientific, or not scientific?", then this could, as you say, simply be a problem of ignorance about the difference between astrology and astronomy. But if the question included a definition of astrology such as "that the position of the stars and planets have an effect on personality," then the issues raised in the summary come into play.
    • by rjstanford (69735) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:30AM (#46228795) Homepage Journal

      Totally true. I don't believe a thing about astrology, but then again I'm a pisces. We're naturally skeptical.

    • Indeed, I think it's probably a good sign that kids today probably don't know what Astrology is and figure that it's "the one with the telescopes".

      Similarly how many people here know the difference between Cryonics and Cryogenics? One is the study of ultra-low temperature, and the other is the movement surrounding freezing your body after you die with the goal of resurrecting you later when technology advances far enough. But do you know which is which without looking it up?

      G.

    • may just have led to most young people not having a clue and assuming astrology = astronomy

      It is likely both studies were born at the same time. Maybe 10K years before the invention of agriculture and the domestication of maize in southern Mexico, 18K-20K years ago the first scientists looked up at the stars and drew what they saw on a cave wall in Lascaux [wikipedia.org], France... and at the same time the first astrologer connected the stars like dots, and drew animals [ps-19.org], which tell a story to them, which are no doubt related to far older oral traditions about which we'll likely never know anything.

      I find it

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

    by fastgriz (1052034) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:57AM (#46227921)
    Explains the government we have.
  • Typo/misread? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:57AM (#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.

    • Astrology (Score:5, Funny)

      by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:59AM (#46227943)
      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It looks like the report aggregates about 30 surveys and unfortunately doesn't reference individual data sources for the astrology discussion. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's done or worked on one of these surveys to see if they investigated this.

    • This would be a reason to worry less if it were a single data point. But this sort of explanation doesn't help explain the apparent increase over time unless you think people are getting less careful about reading questions or using context recognition.
      • by ranton (36917)

        This would be a reason to worry less if it were a single data point. But this sort of explanation doesn't help explain the apparent increase over time unless you think people are getting less careful about reading questions or using context recognition.

        Others on this thread have mentioned that people may simply not be as familiar with astrology as they were in the past. If the percentage of 18-24 year old adults who even know what astrology is is dropping steadily, then the number of people who mistake astrology for astronomy would probably be steadily going up at a similar rate. If a survey was already focusing on scientific concepts, I could see myself confusing the terms. Although in the context of "Is astrology a science" I would probably notice the d

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tom (822)

      I think you are trying to rationalize the results away because you don't want to admit that officially now 40% of americans are blabbering imbeciles.

      There's no other way to put it. And that's the brilliance of the paper. They don't ask if anyone "believes" in astrology or any such thing. They ask a question that has an objective true or false value.

      • by Quirkz (1206400)

        They ask a question that has an objective true or false value.

        Well let's see. Astrology wouldn't exist without knowledge of planets and constellations and their location in the sky. That is objectively scientific, right?

  • Michael Behe thought astrology was science too, I guess that didn't help the case in Dover. The problem is just not young people think astrology is science, scientists think the same way.
    • " The problem is just not young people think astrology is science, scientists think the same way." That is the most ridiculous statement I have heard. One contrarian scientist doesn't equate to "scientists" without further qualification.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:00AM (#46227947)

    It's a science of extracting money from gullible people.

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

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:05AM (#46227997) Journal
    Start about 4 minutes in [videosift.com].
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:07AM (#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.
    • The country has moved further left? Hardly. Instead, the center point has leaped further to the right. Many of this president's poilicies are no more liberal than Ronald Reagan yet the far right calls him a socialist. Check this out [voteview.com]. Look at the graph labeled "Party Means on Liberal-Conservative Dimension" and notice the jump on the conservative side. In particular, the Republican House of Representatives.

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
        There has been an increase in election of right-wing officials in the House certainly, but my many other metrics people have moved to the left. One prominent example is gay rights where 20 years ago gay marriage was almost unheard of as an idea and now has large scale support.
    • by ranton (36917)

      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.

      Irrational people are not monopolized by either political party. Irrational liberals are more likely to believe in astrology, and irrational conservatives are more likely to believe in the flying spaghetti monster (or whatever they call their favorite deity).

    • That's because.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:41AM (#46228871)

      The Right tends to be more of a certain Christian belief that has a deep seated fear of 'new agey', 'spiritistic', 'occult' etc practices, whereas the left has the Christians who don't care about that kind of stuff, and the secularists who are every bit as irrational.

      I've noticed this trend too, having grown up amongst fundies then moving to the big city as I got older. You find pseudoscience everywhere.

      My experience on the religious Right: Yoga, Meditation and Astrology open your mind to Satan. Pray to God, son.
      My experience on the Left: Lengthy discussions of star signs, after laughing at those damn fool fundamentalists.

  • by WillAdams (45638) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:07AM (#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.

  • Mixup (Score:5, Informative)

    by bickerdyke (670000) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:11AM (#46228051)

    or it might be a simple mixup between astrology and astronomy.

  • Why they can't get a job?

  • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:12AM (#46228055) Homepage Journal

    We Virgos are sceptical about such things.

  • by Triv (181010) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:13AM (#46228063) Journal
    For fuck's sake guys, there was so much more interesting information in that report and you went for the linkbait-iest piece of crap on the list. Have some fucking self respect. Check your sources. Be a goddamned editor. The rest of you: follow the link to the .pdf and read at least the Highlights of the report. It's fascinating.
  • So we win some [scientificamerican.com], we lose some
  • Will South Carolina now "teach the controversy" with astrology the way they say they say they want to do with creationism [slashdot.org]?

    No, of course not, as what they are really trying to do is promote their religion in public schools, and astrology is not part of their religion.

  • People are exposed to all kinds of "science" today: animal rights, anti-GMO, organic food, vegan diet, astrology, political science, economics...

    What's science? Maybe all of the above, maybe none of the above.

  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:33AM (#46228235)

    dammit `~My `keyboard is on` the fritz so` forgive random` quotes, apostrophes `and tildes. I tried to delete them but `the `backspace key also inserts them! Yay!

    First ``they `say this:
    "half of all Americans say astrology, the study of celestial bodies' purported influence on human behavior and worldly events, is either "very scientific" or "sort of scientific."
      `An`d `then` t`hey` say `this:
    "By contrast, 92 percent of the Chinese public think horoscopes are a bunch of baloney."

    So `they used` two `different `words which mean two `different things but used them in `a `comparison as if they were the `same` thing.`Great reporting!

    My guess is astrology sounds very close to astronomy in both spelling and pronunciation` so it is leading to confusion. I` read throug`h t`he` report ``but `the `problem is `no` exact sample `question `was given and we don't know how the people were asked. It simply `states that "Since 1979, surveys have `asked `Americans whether they view astrology as being scientific." `I `guess it `must read something `like this: "Do `you think `astrology is` a `science?" with` a few check `boxes under it with "not `at all" "sort of" or "very `scientific".

    I `bet if they replaced astrology with horoscopes then we would `see `a completely dif`ferent `dataset`.

  • by RivenAleem (1590553) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:44AM (#46228365)

    Every day you hear about more things they are spotting in space, with bigger more powerful horoscopes they can see more exoplanets and stars etc. Considering how much our Curiosity alone has Discovered about the surface of Mars, it's not surprising Astrology is gaining a lot of credibility.

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:46AM (#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 argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:58AM (#46228503) Journal

    The results are there but the interpretation is flawed.
    I'd be FAR more likely to believe US kids are stupid and confused 'astrology' with 'astronomy', than that they believe astrology is a science.

    We were being given a college tour for one of our kids at a LEADING institution (retail price north of $50k/year) and the pretty young tour guide was showing us around, and identified one of the science buildings as "...and there's the building with various science classrooms including geology, biology, and astrology...", which prompted a sudden look up* by most of the male parents in the group, eye contact, and a shrug. I didn't notice a single mom or kid react.
    *she was wearing yoga pants

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:24AM (#46229339)
    A lot of young people confuse the terms astrology and astronomy. Unless astrology was described prior to the poll, it requires a huge grain of salt.
  • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @12:28PM (#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 Workaphobia (931620) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:24PM (#46232455) Journal

    Without RTFA, was there any attempt to remind survey participants that astrology is the one with animal symbols, and astronomy is the one with black holes? If not, this isn't measuring acceptance of astrology, so much as measuring name recognition.

    • by quantaman (517394)

      I'm tempted to agree. I'm not sure that they were explicitly confused but they may have been mostly ignorant, ie they rated astrology highly not because they confused it with astronomy, but because they associated with astronomy.

      I actually saw a similar thing with a fairly well educated co-worker. We had a discussion one day and I discovered that he believed in homeopathy, as it turned out this was just because he didn't know what homeopathy was. He thought it was just another form of naturopathy (which is

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