The discovery of a new constellation in the night sky has created an upheaval within the astrological community, bringing notoriety to Rockford-area palm reader Debbie Williams.Unable to determine the ultimate fate of a client during an astrology reading, Williams found that the sign Aries no longer seemed to provide her with any sense of celestial foretelling.
“I always had trouble making out Aries,” said Williams who admits needing to tilt her head in a certain way and squint with one eye in order to see the constellation known as “The Ram”.
According to Williams, Aries is just too small to be considered a constellation and thus can’t reasonably have any real effect on 1/12th of the entire human population. This new revelation left Williams relieved to know that her own difficulties in assigning vague advice to desperate people were not her fault.
“I was thrilled to realize that my recent failures weren’t because of the impossibility to predict future events and personality traits based upon the positions of the planets, the sun and the moon in relation to stars that are trillions of miles away,” Williams said. “It must be because this particular constellation is flawed.”
Seizing an opportunity, Williams first relegated the tiny Aries to merely a dwarf constellation, or constelloid, removing it of its influence over human events.
She then began to construct her own constellation by assigning the stars that once made up Aries and borrowing some others from nearby Pisces. Williams observed that the new cluster of stars looks a lot like her cat, Artemis, and so named the discovery after her dear pet. She is hopeful that her new constellation Artemis will take its rightful place in the daily horoscope.
Astrology is still recovering from the recent controversy brought on by astronomer Parke Kunkle who pointed out that your sign might very well be wrong anyway because of precession of the equinoxes. His competing claim is that a 13th constellation called Ophiuchus should be included in the zodiac calendar. This has left millions concerned and angry that their lives may have been guided in the wrong direction over all these years.
But most astrologers reject Kunkle’s claims, convinced that the science of astronomy, and the methodological naturalism it uses to derive facts from detailed observation and reliable mathematical models, can’t say anything about who should marry whom or what lottery numbers they should play.
“You’re right, we can’t do that,” said each and every astronomer reached for comment. “That’s not the point.”
If Williams’ discovery withstands the rigorous process of peer review –which within the astrological community means that her peers launch a letter writing campaign and press releases to change public sentiment– she may be the first astrologer in millennia to actually change the Zodiac itself.
Since the announcement, hundreds of psychic mediums and astrologers have come forth claiming to have predicted the shakeup. Williams says, now that she thinks about it, her own psychic told her that “big things were going to happen in her personal or professional life, having something to do with the outdoors”.
“She gave me that reading so long ago, I almost forgot about it, but she sure was spot on,” Williams said. “I mean what could be more ‘outdoors’ than the universe, right?”
Using an instrument called a pareidoliascope, astrologers are able to perceive otherwise nonexistent patterns created by stars strewn apart by hundreds of light years. These readings of the constellations can be hugely influential with people because of psychological phenomena such as confirmation bias, apophenia (the tendency to see patterns in otherwise meaningless data) and subjective validation. In fact, Americans spend billions of dollars a year seeking advice on major life decisions.
The astrological community is in full debate over how this new constellation will influence the employment opportunities, stock market trends, and the love-lives of over half a billion people across the world.
In recent years, part-timers seem to be playing a larger role in the field of astrology. According to Dr. Roger Flemming, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Astrology and Astrotherapy Department, it is not uncommon for amateur astrologers to happen upon discoveries that significantly contribute to pseudoscience.
Professional astrologers complain that government and university-supported astrologers are too underfunded and overwhelmed to keep track of the influence of all the celestial bodies.
“It’s great that we have part-time prognosticators contributing to the field of astrology and filling in the gaps,” Flemming said. “You don’t have to be some Zodiacal professor to help people give up personal responsibility for the things that happen in their lives.”
This article can also be seen in The Last Laugh humor section of the May/June issue of The Skeptical Inquirer magazine.