by Andrew Fraknoi
© copyright 2009 Andrew Fraknoi. The right to reproduce for any educational non-commercial purpose is hereby granted, as long as the author's name and institution are not deleted. For any other use, contact the author at e-mail: email@example.com
This is a selected list of resources for those who want to examine with a skeptical eye some of the claims at the fringes of science that seem connected to astronomy. The last section includes some general books that deal with a broader range of pseudo-scientific topics. Educators can sometimes use the enormous media and student interest in some of these topics as a way of generating discussion about what constitutes science and what does not. It's an opportunity to explain how the scientific method allows us to test controversial hypotheses and determine whether nature really works in the way they claim. The claims listed here generally evaporate under the scrutiny of careful observation and experiment.
Table of Contents:
Perhaps the best known field of astronomical pseudo-science is the ancient idea that the position of the Sun, Moon, and planets at the moment we are born somehow affects our subsequent personality, career, or love-life. Astrology got a big media boost in 1988 when it was revealed that for a large part of his term, President's Reagan's schedule had been controlled by the predictions of a San Francisco astrologer (who had been on Nancy Reagan's payroll.) However, astrology is also the field in which the largest number of scientific tests have been performed and the evidence clearly demonstrates that astrological connections are no more than wishful thinking.
Culver, Roger & Ianna, Philip Astrology: True or False. 1988, Prometheus Books. The best skeptical book about astrology, full of useful information.
Fraknoi, A. "Your Astrology Defense Kit" in Sky
& Telescope, Aug. 1989, p. 146. An introductory article with
some basic skeptical questions about astrology. (Available on
the web at:
Astrology and Science Web Site: Ivan Kelly and others keep some of the best articles and research studies on this crowded site. http://www.rudolfhsmit.nl/hpage.htm
The Astrotest: Dutch skeptic Rob Nanninga describes an experimental test of astrology done with the help of astrologers. http://www.skepsis.nl/astrot.html
The Real Romance in the Stars: Biologist Richard Dawkins wrote
an angry column to a British newspaper flirting with astrology
and you can see it here with a few later notes.
Carlson, S. "Astrology" in Experientia, vol. 44, p. 290 (1988). A clear review.
Carlson, S. "A Double Blind Test of Astrology" in Nature, vol. 318, p. 419 (5 Dec. 1985). A technical paper describing a good experiment examining whether astrology works.
Dean, G. "Does Astrology Need to be True?" in Skeptical Inquirer, Winter 86-87, p. 116; Spring 1987, p. 257. An important examination of tests about astrology.
Dean, G. & Kelly, I. "Does Astrology Work: Astrology and Skepticism 1975-2000" in Kurtz, Paul, ed. Skeptical Odysseys. 2001, Prometheus Books.
Kelly, I. "Modern Astrology: A Critique" in Psychological Reports, vol. 81, p. 1035 (1997). An excellent review. (An expanded version can be found on the first web site recommended below.)
Kelly, I." Why Astrology Doesn't Work" in Psychological Reports, vol. 82, p. 527 (1998).
Kurtz, P. & Fraknoi, A. "Scientific Tests of Astrology Do Not Support Its Claims" in Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1985, p. 210.
Kurtz, P., et al. "Astrology and the Presidency" in Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1988, p. 3. A good summary of the controversy concerning astrology in the Reagan White House.
Lovi, G. "Zodiacal Signs Versus Constellations" in Sky & Telescope, Nov. 1987, p.507.