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The History Channel Airs an Episode on Astrology

History Channel episode on astrologyYesterday the History Channel aired an hour-long episode of its series The Universe: Ancient Mysteries Solved that focused entirely on astrology.

The episode was not so much about the history of astrology as it was on debates about the validity of the subject in modern times.

I had a lot of trepidation going into it because sometimes things like this end up being a hatchet job, but I was surprised to see that they gave a much more balanced treatment of many of the arguments for and against astrology than I expected, for the most part.

Of course, at the end of the day they gave more weight to the positions of the astronomers they interviewed who were against astrology, understandably, but in the process they actually provided the viewer with a great deal of information about what contemporary astrology is actually like, which was really refreshing.

For example, at one point they spent quite a bit of time showing and talking about an actual birth chart, and discussing some of the different facets of it. Obviously for anyone who is familiar with the subject this is just basic astrology, but so often debates about the subject end up focusing solely on Sun-signs, and so even just presenting the idea that there is more than just one sign of the zodiac that is relevant in each person’s life is actually a pretty big step in terms of the way that astrology is typically portrayed.

I also had some trepidation going into this episode because I wasn’t really familiar with the two astrologers that were chosen by the History Channel to represent the astrological community, and in the past when the media has randomly chosen astrologers for interviews the results have been kind of hit or miss. This wasn’t really helped by the fact that they were both introduced as “two well respected astrologers,” because generally within the context of the astrological community I would expect that statement to be reserved for really well-known or influential astrologers such as Robert Hand, Liz Greene, or Steven Forrest. Nonetheless, I think that the two astrologers who were featured, Robert Ohotto and Alanna Kaivalya, ended up doing a pretty good job.

I should also say that while I was pleasantly surprised at how much more balanced the treatment of astrology was in this episode compared to typical treatments of the subject, that is not to say that it was completely balanced. The show ended on a decidedly anti-astrology note, and even the number of people who were interviewed that were against astrology far exceeded the number of astrologers that were interviewed, which gives you some idea of what the overall agenda was for the show. The five scientists who appear in the show at various points were Andrew Fraknoi, Alexei Filippenko, Lucianne Walkowicz, Clifford Johnson, and Michio Kaku. This is compared to the two astrologers mentioned above.

Of course, I understand that part of the reason for this is that with fringe fields like this they want to make the episode interesting by talking about a weird subject, but they also want to represent the current consensus of the scientific community, and within that context the episode was never going to be overtly pro-astrology.  Still, at some point I’d like to see a more balanced discussion between and equal number of astrologers and scientists on the subject. I realize that this might come off kind of like climate change deniers complaining about not having equal representation in debates about global warming, despite the fact that they only account for a small portion of the overall scientific community, but I would argue that if you are going to treat the subject of astrology at all then you might as well do an adequate job of presenting what astrologers actually think or do. This episode came closer to doing that than anything like it that I’ve seen before, but there is still more that could be done.

In terms of the specific arguments that were discussed that were either for or against astrology I have a lot to say, although I think that I’m going to save that commentary for an episode of my podcast on astrology sometime in the near future. Suffice it to say that I was a bit disappointed that a lot of the episode focused on discussions about the absence of some sort of causal mechanism for astrology, and the astrologers didn’t really seem to get a chance to point out that most astrologers believe that astrology works through some sort of acausal mechanism such as synchronicity. This is something I’ve discussed before here in my article on the definition of astrology. It was also a bit disappointing that the astrologers didn’t get more of a chance to explain or defend the tropical zodiac, and some of the same arguments and misinformation from the zodiacal controversy from a few years ago were repeated.

Despite these issues it was still great to see a full hour-long television episode on astrology featured on the History Channel, and I appreciated that the subject was treated much more respectfully than usual. I would definitely recommend that people check out the episode.

The episode was part of the series The Universe: Ancient Mysteries Solved, and it was episode 9 of season 7, titled “Predicting the Future.” It first aired on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 9:00 PM EDT, and it is scheduled to air again on May 23 and 24 according to this schedule. A quick Google search shows that clips of it are already popping up online, and it looks like you can watch it for free on the History Channel website if you have a cable subscription, or the episode is available for for purchase on YouTube, on iTunes, or through Amazon instant video.

Please check out the episode and let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Update June 6, 2015: Listen to my full commentary on the History Channel episode on astrology on The Astrology Podcast.

10 replies on “The History Channel Airs an Episode on Astrology”

Overall, I agree with the comments in your article above. They SHOULD have used some more well known astrologers, altho, the 2 they had on did a fine job. It was very unbalanced with 2 astrologers/5 scientists. The divorce rate *study* they did, as all who KNOW astrology understand is you NEVER just look at a comparison of just sun signs and thereby it becomes much more scientific than the scientists can actually comprehend. Typical. Like the Mars example also…. just because some person might have a strongly placed Mars, it might not mean they are going to be a superstar in sports, but could be military, or depending on other aspects, etc, be the energy that pushes one in their other areas of life…sigh.

It would be nice to have a FAIR show done, but unlikely to ever happen.

Since you asked my impressions of the program:

I did appreciate the astrologers they interviewed, they were very competent. I may contact them and ask how they were recruited.

Frankoi (spelling) seemed to use the expert logic fallacy, it isn’t so because I’m the expert and I say so.

The replication of the Gauquelin study that was not successful was ‘under the aegis’ of CSICOP and the data was cherry picked by Paul Kurtz as some data was thrown out ( The Night Speaks by Steven Forrest).

I found it fascinating they assumed astronomical quantitative or material advances should be used by natal astrologers, such as the discovery of the black hole near the galactic center or the planets discovered in Cancer.

The compatibility study was a gimmee for them, just poofy time filling stuff, as they said themselves most astrologers find sun sign astrology too simplistic.

They did not really seem to comprehend the concept of Sidereal and Tropical Zodiacs, nor explore Vedic Astrology at all. Also their bafflement that Ursa Major is ‘not even a western astrological constellation’, seemed to illustrate their very limited knowledge of astrology. Is it because it is bigger or more recognizable it should be included?

I was fascinated by the shifting images/views of the Big Dipper, that you could see a completely different pattern if you shift your location in space, but they did not seem to understand that the system makes sense because of perspective or where you are relative to the image or to everything else. Everything is relative, in other words.

Thank you for posting it, I did explore the 229 million orbit of the Sun around the Galactic Center and have a firmer grasp of it now in order to understand the machinations of the larger picture. Some of my early studies included these greater cycles.

At any rate it was very interesting. Thanks again.

Although I watched the whole episode, I still don’t believe they did astrology any favours and at times I felt quite uncomfortable about the scientists’ comments regarding aspects of astrology. It is actually kind of frustrating how they voice such strong opinions with apparent authority without really bothering to read up or undertake any research into the subject.

It is a real shame the balance of arguments wasn’t achieved correctly and I fear that this may have put some people that are not familiar with astrology off it, yet again! Not that I feel that I need to justify how and why astrology works, but it feels like another attempt to discredit the great work that our astrological community does.

Thank you for posting the link though Chris. It is going to take a bit more than an episode on the History Channel to undo thousands of years of astrological knowledge and tradition!

I had pretty low expectations going in to the episode, and so I guess my endorsement of it here should probably be gauged relative to that. I was kind of anticipating a disaster, and when it turned out better than expected I was pleasantly surprised. It is possible that I didn’t take some of the problematic statements from the scientists as seriously as I could have though because I’m too used to them at this point. I do want to do a followup commentary at some point though in order to talk about some of the issues with the episode. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that before too long.

They will air it again on Saturday, May 23 at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, and then again a few hours later.

I am glad to see astrology is now being discussed in a well-respected TV show, which already indicates the increased interest in astrology among people. I agree that the show did not present a favorable view towards astrology, but I do think it raises some interesting issues.

The scientists in the show emphasized much that what is missing in astrology is HARD CORE evidence, which is true. In astrology, we have so many working hypotheses that are derived from astrological theories, but very few have been put into test. We don’t exactly know whether Chiron has substantial influence, nor whether some fixed stars should be taken into consideration. Different astrologers tend to focus on different things to interpret the chart, things that they feel validated by their own experience.

There are a few studies that attempt to show the effectiveness of astrology, but not so many. However, we are now entering an era when statistics becomes easy, and big data is becoming available. It will be beneficial if astrologers accumulate data and test their hypothesis with well designed statistical procedures, not only showing to the scientific community that astrology works, but also improving astrology practice by downplaying some unimportant factors in the birth chart.

Some trained researchers have taken the task to show the influence of planets on human life by advanced statistics, fortunately. Check out this article published in Journal of Financial Economics–the Top scientific journal in finance research: Predicting anomaly performance with politics, the weather, global warming, sunspots, and the stars

It shows that the stock market tends to perform extremely well when Jupiter and Saturn are in conjunction while bad when they are in opposition. It also shows when Mars and Saturn are in opposition, it’s a good time to invest.

Looking forward to seeing more this kind of studies in future!

I have been a long time follower of Robert Ohotto and was excited that he was being featured on The History Channel.

As someone who has been filmed for ‘reality’ TV I know how the shows work. I estimate they have 8 hours of Robert and Alanna, each, and only minutes ended up in the show. I am betting anything validating astrology was left on the cutting room floor as it;s didn’t fit with the episode’s agenda.

I am guessing Robert was selected because he created Soul Contract Astrology which combines your personal soul contract with your birth chart. To me, it makes the flat 2D chart 3D, which is what none of the astronomers took into account, each person’s individual unique life path.

I equate what many of the scientist’s statements to be pre-enlightment. At one point, everyone thought the world was flat. All the ‘experts’ agreed. Now all the experts agree otherwise. I believe there will be a point in the future when astrology and astronomy merge together and a new pattern of perception will emerge, making our current views seem archaic.

Looking forward to listening to your podcast on this topic Chris.

Hi Cris,
I was looking for information on election charts when I came across this article. I wondered if it was the same program being discussed as one I’d seen a while back. I didn’t remember the date of the show, but I did remember how I felt while watching it. I was so angry, I was ranting, jumping up and looking in wild eyed horror and disbelief that such an incredibly biased program was being shown- on the History Channel. I was really, really mad.
And alongside the anger was the sadness at having to accept the reality of what was happening.
The “powers that be” are yet unwilling to give any of it (power) away to the people.I’ve heard it said that “information is power”. Well what was portrayed as astrology was “dis*information”. AKA brainwashing.
By choosing Michio Kaku as a scientific spokesperson,
one well*known and respected by both camps, and not balancing his views with a well known and respected spokesperson in the astrological community they showed their hands (intentions, agenda etc.) Choosing interviewers without a shred of knowledge about the subject, another ‘clue’ of many that displayed their true agenda.
I realize that this topic is old, but it was so incredibly biased, so emotionally powerful for me that I welcomed the chance to express myself. (My partner thought I was being dramatic and was less than understanding of my outrage)
Perhaps I shouldn’t have taken it so personally but the study of astrology has been the only constant in ‘mi vida loca’.
One last thing, who said astrology had to be “proven” by using today’s scientific knowledge anyway? That’s just pablum. I hope for the day we all wake up knowing our current “science” is limited and often just wrong. I’m glad a lot of astrologers have no desire to prove their craft to the scientists or skeptics.