Astrology ≠ Astronomy | Star Crossed | No, Wait, It Is That Bad

o, according to a new survey by the National Science Foundation (PDF),

…nearly 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.”

By contrast, 92 percent of the Chinese public think horoscopes are a bunch of baloney.

What’s more alarming, researchers show in the 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators (PDF) study, 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. (United Press International)

 Apparently, stupid is written in the stars.

Addendum I: Star Crossed

Richard N. Landers over at NeoAcademic has taken a second look at the methodology behind the NSA’s study, noting:

The goal of the NSF researchers was to assess, “Do US citizens believe astrology is scientific?” People were troubled that young people now apparently believe astrology is more scientific than in the past. But this interpretation unwisely assumes that people accurately interpret the word astrology. It assumes that they know what astrology is and recognize that they know it in order to respond authentically.(

Landers conducted a limited straw test to examine how well people understood the difference between the two terms and found:

Quite a big difference! Among those that correctly identified astrology as astrology, only 13.5% found it “pretty scientific” or “very scientific”. Only 1 person said it was “very scientific.” Among those that identified astrology as astronomy, the field was overwhelmingly seen as scientific, exactly as I expected. This is the true driver of the NSF report findings. Both an independent-samples t-test and a Mann Whitney U test (depending on what scale of measurement you think Likert-type scales are) agree that the differences in science perceptions between those responding about astronomy and those responding about astrology is significantly different (U = 119.00, p < .001; t(97) = 10.537, p < .001). Massive effect too (d = 2.48)! (

Addendum II: No wait, It Is That Bad

The folks over at the Independent surfaced a few other choice findings in the NSA report, specifically:

With the possible exception of ‘is the Earth flat?’ it is (according to Discover magazine at least) the most basic question in science: ‘does the Earth orbit the sun?’
The good news is that 74 per cent of Americans know the answer.
The very bad news is that means 26 per cent really don’t.

Other startling results from the survey included that only 39 per cent of Americans believe “the universe began with a huge explosion”. And fewer than half of the people surveyed (48 per cent) agreed that “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals”.

Meanwhile, 51 per cent of Americans knew that antibiotics don’t kill viruses. (


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