Skepticism: Testing astrology in a convincing way
While the Barnum effect has been known for some time, I have found that people who are aware of it still believe in astrology. Why is this so?
At first glance, it would seem that the usual test of astrology would be complete. The usualy experiment run is the one where a reading is picked and given to a group; for example a reading for a libra given to a capricorn, scorpio, and cancer. Generally, people agree with this reading saying that it applies to them. However, I often recieve a perfectly valid counter argument to this which addresses the Barnum effect. The objection is that of an interesting fallacy, a form of the fallacier's fallacy. If we were to give several sick people various medical diagnoses accompanied by symptoms, chances are they would identify with the disease despite not specifically having the disease. Even precise medical terminology is vague enough to contain within it enough range for the thoughts of "I am, therefore I must be" thoughts to creep in.
The proper way to conduct this experiment in the case of astrology is to present an unlabeled reading from all 12 signs to each subject and ask which they identify best with. If there is nothing to astrology then of course the choices should match something like 1 in 12 probabilistic statistics.
Personally, I wonder if those who closely follow astrology don't lead lives which are influenced by these claims. This would be an instance of self-fulfilling prophesy.
I am making plans to run tests accordingly to see how much of an influence this stuff has on people.
Of course, some ethical questions are brought up. How is fake influence toward a specific stereotype any worse than a real influence such as, say, having a different skin color? If there is no difference and we choose to fix such fake influences then why not eliminate the real ones (should we bleach black people?) as well? Of course we shouldn't subject people born into a historical stereotype to such things. That leaves us with the only alternative: this stereotype demotes diversity.
The sort of diversity I'm speaking of here is not the sort espoused by college campuses. What colleges mean by diversity is essentially national diversity, or diversity of heritage. True diversity is a matter of expression. This means not censoring students when they disagree with the socially accepted values of the population general. If a single student wants to state something as outrageous as "black jews are inferior because they are money laundering criminals" then they should be allowed to express these ideas in an environment equipped to handle them. Many college students lack the necessary logical study to really evaluate ideas.
This is precisely why astrology has taken a stranglehold on society. When was the last time you heard someone ask, really wonder, how astrology works? We don't wonder how things that are specifically mysterious work - it's magic! The average person is not equipped to reason through the support for something like astrology. It is no different than telling a child that two plus two always equals zero.