As I was born at the beginning of April, I am Aries – the sign of the Ram. This information is supposed to do two things: give an indication of the kind of person I am and foretell my future. Given my exact date, time and place of birth, an astrologer would be able to give a much more “accurate” assessment of both these things than the generalizations that apply to everyone born under this star sign.
As you might imagine, I am somewhat sceptical about astrology. Actually, that is an understatement – I think it is all hogwash. But I am interested in considering whether there is any possible scientific basis for it …
I will start with the possibility for predicting the future. I just cannot see how this is possible. As far as I can see, we are each in control of our own destiny – there is no “fate” which governs our future. I can make decisions that affect what my future might be and nobody could predict them. For example, I can predict that if I made some libellous remarks about the CEO of Mentor Graphics here, my authorship of this blog would be terminated [and my job too, I would expect]. But as I have no problem with that gentleman [and would like to keep this blog and my job], I will refrain from doing that. There you go – I influenced my future.
I actually rather like the “multi-verse” theory of the future: at every moment when a decision is made, and one of two possible paths is chosen [by a person or by events], the universe splits into two; in one universe one decision is taken; in the other, the alternate path is taken. So whatever is predicted for the future will be true in some of the almost infinite number of universes.
It is interesting to read horoscopes in newspapers etc. as they are very cleverly written so that almost anyone can believe that they apply to them personally: You will meet a tall dark stranger [and he will tell you that astrology is nonsense].
What about the description of a person’s character? I cannot see how the moment of my birth has any bearing upon who I am. Surely that is some combination of nature [my genes] and nurture [my life experiences]. Maybe the first of these is a clue. Perhaps the moment of conception, when the genes of the foetus are determined, is the important time. Was there something about that night in early July 1956 that influenced who I am today?
I would ask my father, but he is unlikely to remember, so let’s consider the biology/physics. What might affect the coming together of parental genes? I suppose there are many physical parameters: temperature and pressure would be very local to the specific conception; gravity would be dependent upon location and tend not to vary significantly with time – though a tidal affect from the Moon might have an effect; background radiation is a more interesting factor.
Radiation varies from place to place, dependent upon geology. There are places in the UK, for example [Cornwall and some of Scotland], where the natural background is too high to allow the building of nuclear power plants. But this background level is unchanging over time. The biggest variable source of radiation is the Sun. For a given location on the Earth’s surface, the solar radiation will vary on a fairly consistent annual cycle. So, I would speculate that two conceptions, occurring at around the same time of year in broadly the same part of the world, would be subject to, and may be influenced by, the same radiation and, hence, may result in foetuses with similar neurological development.
I would like to research this. All I need is some volunteers to start families under controlled conditions …