Yet another pro-astrology piece in the Guardian

December 28, 2020 • 9:00 am

Yesterday I noted that The Guardian, Britain’s version of HuffPost, had published an astrology piece on December 26, and didn’t bother to note that the five astrologers it presented were discussing unevidenced claims. It was pure bunk. Indeed, the article’s author, Deborah Linton, made several statements that seemed to vindicate astrology.

Well, that wasn’t the first astrology piece that the paper published that week. Reader Jez called my attention to the publication, five days earlier, of an even dumber article about astrology, which you can see by clicking the screenshot below. This one is straight-up woo, presented without reservations or caveats, and written by Emily Segal, a True Believer.

What we have here is simply a long-form astrology column that deals largely with the Jupter/Saturn conjunction and what it means. According to Segal (who I suspect was actually paid for these lucubrations), it means that we’re moving from an Earth Period to an Air Period:

Besides its visual dazzle, this event has special significance through an astrological lens: it marks the official shift from a 200 year period during which Jupiter and Saturn made conjunctions primarily in Earth signs into a 200 year period of conjunctions in Air signs, marking the advent of a new epoch in a larger 800 year macro-cycle.

. . .  In astrological terms, Jupiter signifies expansion, growth, and coherence – but can also lead to cancerous hypertrophy. Saturn represents the opposite principle, of limitation, structure, and containment, often considered the cruel taskmaster of the zodiac. Together they are like life and death, warp and weft, and their conjunctions signal key moments in the formation of collective reality.

And the inevitable good news:

As for your own experience: don’t panic. Elements are traditionally neutral, which means going from a period typified by one to a period typified by another doesn’t spell disaster. Epochal shifts are part of life, though not everyone has the privilege of living through one like this, since they only happen every 200 years. While I definitely recommend keeping your eyes peeled for changes, don’t expect everything to update all at once – the Air period may be upon us, but certain heavenly revolutions are a slow burn, indeed.

The “privilege” of living through 2020? I don’t think so. And as for her “prediction” that change will happen, but not all at once, well, is that something we need an astrologer to tell us?

I won’t go on—the whole piece is ineffably stupid. But it also includes her justification for her own work:

I am a trend forecaster. Part of my job is about zooming out and looking at big-picture data and trends in order to analyze the present and model key changes to come. I’ve found that astrology, which tracks data from the motion of stars and planets and tries to extrapolate trends and meaning from it, is a useful, evocative model for pattern recognition. I’m not alone in this fascination: Astrology is absolutely booming among millennials and Gen-Z, led in part by a renaissance of scholarship around the subject over the last ten to fifteen years, which has restored a great deal of classical legitimacy and rigor to the admittedly woo-woo new age astrology of the 1960s and 70s.

If there is any evidence that astrology actually helps us understand events, or that people’s characters are formed by their “signs”, let Segal give it to us. In fact, tests have shown that the whole enterprise is a bunch of baloney, booming among Millennials or not. (If you want to see a good double-blind test that was published in Nature, go here (if you can’t see it, make a judicious inquiry).

Oy, my kishkas!

But, mirabile dictu, the Guardian deigned to publish a letter criticizing the article above. Its author, John Zarnecki, is an emeritus professor of space science at The Open University as well as Director of the International Space Science Institute at Berne, Switzerland. Click to read, but I’ll put the whole letter below:


I read with rising horror the piece by Emily Segal (The ‘great conjunction’ kicks off a new astrological epoch. So what now?, 21 December). After the third sentence, it is frankly bunkum and hocus-pocus. Especially at a time when surely we must be following rationality and logic, promoting astrological nonsense such as this is quite irresponsible.

As a former president of the Royal Astronomical Society (2016-18), I am sure that I can speak for all astronomers in asserting that there is absolutely no evidence that astrology offers us anything other than an occasional 30-second diversion between other more useful activities.

Where is one piece of serious peer-reviewed research that tells us that astrology is worthy of more than historical interest? None of the so-called propositions merits any serious discussion.

And if the conjecture that “astrology is absolutely booming among millennials” has any basis in truth, then God help us! Luckily, none of the millennials that I know have shown any sign of such tendencies. I hope this is just a passing aberration on the part of the Guardian and that reason will soon return.

Well, it wasn’t passing; the aberration returned five days later. Who’s in charge of this stuff at the Guardian? Segal’s article is the equivalent of the paper publishing the allegations of QAnon as if they were real. And people spend billions of dollars on astrology, so by enabling and validating it, the Guardian is doing us a real disservice. If you subscribe, note that part of your money may have gone for Segal’s fee.

The Miscreant: Emily Segal (from her Twitter site)


The voice of reason: John Zarnicki (from his Wikipedia page)

33 thoughts on “Yet another pro-astrology piece in the Guardian

  1. Zarnecki’s letter is a good one, and judging from the comments below Segal’s article the very vast majority of Guardian readers agree that astrological nonsense doesn’t belong in the paper. I heartily recommend reading those below-the-line remarks – I just wish that the Guardian’s editorial team would take note.

  2. Science is hard. It takes work. It sorta sucks sometimes. It is frequently uncomfortable.

    What exactly is the work of astrology? What is astrology if it is guaranteed to ensconce the victim in comfort?

        1. I saw it myself, didn’t click but and as soon as I saw it I thought: Oh PCC (E) is going to GRAB this like a fly flew into his spidery web!
          Go get ’em.

          Ugh. SO MANY IDIOTS! And maybe I’m getting older and crankier but it SEEMS at least that there is more of this crap in grown-up newspapers like the Guardian and NYTimes all the time. Maybe its all those damn kids on my lawn!


      1. Bingo. I think that’s absolutely correct, unfortunately. I admit that, for precisely that reason, I never click-through to such articles. I feel a bit guilty about it, but I’d rather not contribute to the eyeballs they get.

      2. Yep agreed. As a subscriber, I used to comment on this sort of chuff on the Guardian website frequently. I gave up quite a while ago when I asked myself who’s the mug here? I never received any engagement from them and eventually realised they don’t give a toss. They just want clicks.
        I read the Guardian quit a lot – they do still put out some good journalism. That said, there is far too much intersectional, west-hating, other-ways-of-knowing BS and far too many woke, overly credulous writers lacking basic critical faculties. I no longer subscribe for these reasons, I just can’t support that nonsense.

    1. It’s important to remember that people who have an account and the will to comment are a very, VERY small percentage of the people who clicked on the article. Statistically, they probably amount to a rounding error.

  3. I was reminded of a cartoon which appeared in Punch many years ago:

    A TV newscaster announcing as follows:

    “Astrology, as a science, took another step forward when, as predicted, everyone born under the sign of Scorpio was run over by a milk truck.”

  4. This stuff always cracks me up.

    I am a Cancer. John is a Capricorn. The two least compatible signs of the Zodiac. I am a Rat. John is a Horse. The two least compatible signs of the Chinese calendar.

    In two weeks we will have been together 41 years.


    1. I am also a Cancer….. and my wife of 49 years is an Aries. Also two incompatible signs. Cancers are supposed to be a “stay at home types” and Aries are supposed to be outgoing and fiery personalities. For almost 30 years covering 3 distinct career changes, I have accumulated countless global miles spending at least 10% of that time living and working projects in at least 30 countries and another 30% all over North America, hitting 48 of the 50 states. Maybe 1 in 10 consulting trips did my wife come along, but usually after less than a week away she was always ready to call it a day and head back home. For our entire marriage we have always laughed at how badly the Zodiac Charts defined us at birth.

  5. I treat astrology as a harmless party game. Useful for flirting.

    For example: When an awkward moment of silence falls and (for a moment) I run out of anecdotes from quantum physics and astrophysical jokes.

    You can save yourself by saying – “eh you Capricorns are always so skeptical” or – “are you really under the sign of Taurus? Did you know that Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck ,the same ?!

    1. “I treat astrology as a harmless party game.”

      It is impossible for the methods of astrology to solve problems. Since astrology frequently and deliberately mingles serious matters (one’s future, disease, etc.) with its “methods”, astrology is emphatically a method of problem creation.

  6. I think that what the Guardian notes is that they have engaged some readers but have not enraged them enough to unsubscribe. This looks like the same attempt toexpand readership and potential for more advertizers that we have seen in the wokeness of the nyt…a wokeness that led me to drop my subscription a couple of years ago and move to wapo (which i am currently living with though yelling at some of its headlines more and more often). My guess is that the business model is simply to bring in or solidify ten new readers without losing more than nine. Only by unsubscribing and giving them your reason, can we have any possible impact. Complaining or simply commenting while continuing to be in their subsciber database is not enough.

    1. Telling people what they want to hear is always a good business strategy.

      Look how well it worked for Oprah Winfrey.


    2. I think that what the Guardian notes is that they have engaged some readers but have not enraged them enough to unsubscribe.

      You can read and comment on Grauniad articles without being a subscriber – in the sense of paying lucre for the privilege. You do need a signed-up account, requiring a novel email address. We all know that is not exactly difficult to circumvent.

  7. The Guardian runs a weekly astronomy column called Starwatch, written by an actual astronomer. I have emailed him to ask whether he was aware of the woo-woo piece that ran on the same day as his own column on the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction. I await his reply with interest.

  8. Magician James Randi had professionally done astrology charts done for everyone in a classroom, passed them out, and asked, by a show of hands, how accurate theirs was. The overwhelming majority raised their hand.

    Then he said, ‘Now pass yours to the person sitting in behind  you, those are your real ones.’
    Students laughed when the found them equally accurate.

    Randi was a master a proving a point.

  9. Jupiter signifies expansion, growth, and coherence – but can also lead to cancerous hypertrophy.
    Well, that’s some really good information, I’m sure one day I’ll find a practical use for it. My aura hurts. 🥴

  10. Cancerous hypertrophy? If only cancer were hypertrophy it would be a lot easier to treat! The correct word would be hyperplasia, Emily. Sure it’s not quite as catchy, but if you’re going to use a scientific metaphor to look clever, please use one that makes sense.

  11. FWIW, NY Times podcaster Kara Swisher interviews ” . . . Chani Nicholas, one of the internet era’s most prominent astrologers. On this episode of “Sway,” she demystifies the $2.2 billion industry of astrology . . . .”

    What is there to “demystify”? I might be troubled to sklm a transcript of it, but I don’t think I could get sufficiently likkered-up to tolerate listening to Swisher.

  12. The following quote from Mark Twain seems applicable to Ms. Segal.
    “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

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