You might need to reconsider that Gemini tattoo or even your relationship compatibility. Recently astronomers restored the original Babylonian zodiac by recalculating the dates that correspond with each sign to accommodate thousands of subtle shifts in the Earth's axis.
Here is the corrected zodiac — with the dates corresponding to the times of the year that the sun is actually in each constellation's "house" — according to the Minnesota Planetarium Society's Parke Kunkle:
Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11
Pisces: March 11-April 18
Aries: April 18-May 13
Taurus: May 13-June 21
Gemini: June 21-July 20
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29.
Ophiuchus:* Nov. 29-Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20
* Discarded by the Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs per year instead of 13.
The new schedule has astrology fanatics up in arms. First of all, no one wants Ophiuchus. It sounds like a Harry Potter spell mixed with an STD ... or maybe a spell that gives someone an STD? Additionally, many base life decisions or entire relationships on the zodiac. Who will they turn to now?
I suggest Carl Sagan, the world-renowned scientist who demystified the universe into less daunting terminology in his PBS series Cosmos. He’d tell viewers that, like a grain of sand on the beach, the Milky Way is only one galaxy among "100 billion galaxies, each of which contain something like a 100 billion stars."
In Episode 3, “The Harmony of the Worlds,” he discusses astrology and astronomy. He explains astrology’s origin with the Babylonians and Ptolemy then addresses some problems:
Modern astrologers have forgotten about the precession of the equinoxes, which Ptolemy understood. They ignore atmospheric refraction, about which Ptolemy wrote. They pay almost no attention to all the moons and planets, asteroids and comets, quasars and pulsars, exploding galaxies, symbiotic stars, cataclysmic variables and X-ray sources that have been discovered since Ptolemy’s time. Astronomy is a science — the study of the universe as it is. Astrology is a pseudoscience — a claim, in the absence of good evidence, that the other planets affect our everyday lives. In Ptolemy’s time the distinction between astronomy and astrology was not clear. Today it is.
Furthermore, Ptolemy believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe and that the sun, moon, planets and stars went around the Earth. Sagan also mentions the very point that’s currently upsetting zodiac fans: due to subtle shifts, you’re probably the previous sign in the calendar. He even mentions the lives of twins (how they differ despite the same birth time), the gravitational pull of planets (which is far, far less than that of objects around you), and the purposely vague predictions of horoscope columns.
I’ve been reciting Carl Sagan’s arguments for years to no avail. Friends rolled their eyes and told me I was "just wrong." Countless studies exist disproving the merit of the zodiac. However, empirical evidence won’t win over anyone, as logical fallacies make up the basis of the pro-zodiac argument. I’ll present two:
1. Anecdotal evidence is information that cannot be tested scientifically and is the most common argument you’ll find to support a non-evidence based phenomenon. In practice it refers to personal testimonials and verbal reports (think infomercials). These stories appeal to our emotions, which makes them much more compelling compared to cold, factual evidence.
e.g. "I know for a fact that Zodiac signs are correct because my sister is a Gemini and all the Gemini traits apply to her.”
2. Observational selection is the process of keeping the sample of data that agrees with your premise, and ignoring the sample of data that does not.
e.g. "My astrological reading said I’d come into money today, and I found $20 in my coat pocket. Therefore Zodiac signs are correct."
Remember that one out of every million samples of anything is an incredible one-in-a-million rarity. This is a mere inevitability, but if observational selection compels you to ignore the other 999,999 samples, you're very easily impressed. Additionally, remember that astrology predictions are intentionally vague. Did coming into money mean finding a quarter on the street or hitting it big in the stock market?
Still not convinced?
So why do intelligent, educated people continue to believe in the zodiac despite evidence to the contrary?
For one, it's fun. We like reading about ourselves (especially positive traits, on which zodiac descriptions usually focus). Second, we yearn to relate to the cosmos. This stems from an inherent desire to make sense of our surroundings and find patterns in chaos.
Followers of the zodiac know it’s not everyone’s truth, but, goddamnit, it's their truth. And perhaps that's enough. Whether a devout follower wants to re-ink her Leo tramp-stamp to a Cancer sign is a decision all her own.