Monday, September 16, 2013

Is it wrong to believe that zodiac signs affect personality?

The 12 Zodiac Signs and their symbols
Symbolical representation of the 12 Zodiac Signs
QUESTION: Is it wrong to believe that zodiac signs affect personality?


A.  It depends on what you mean by "believe" and "affect".

Zodiac personality types may have been results of centuries of observing people, that if you were born in this particular month, you have this natural tendency to do things that define your personality.  It is possible that the movements of the heavens due to gravitational forces and the solar activity (coronal mass ejections and solar flares) would influence the earth's electric currents and magnetic fields, and also the coldness of winter and the hotness of summer, which in turn  would affect how your body and brain develops while you are still in your mother's womb.  The problem is that no one has verified these theories by making samples of hundreds or thousands of people, by asking them their birthdays, and observing them for long periods of time or by asking them to answer the Myers-Briggs Personality test.  I think the correlation of the Myers-Briggs results with the Zodiac signs is a doable research problem.  There are 12 Zodiac Signs and there are 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types.  From this we can create a 12x16 matrix, with the rows as Zodiac names and the columns as MB types.  We choose 1,000 persons as sample.  For each cell in the matrix, we write  the number of persons who has a particular Zodiac-MB combination.  If there are no correlation between these two data points, the values of the matrix elements will be more or less the same.  But if there are cells with values beyond three sigmas (standard deviations) in either row or column values, then we note these particular combinations and claim that these are strong correlations.  This study would then be believable and you may believe it. But this belief is only limited to the following statement: there is a correlation between a Myers-Briggs personality type with a particular Zodiac sign. And nothing more beyond this.

Star Finder with image of constellations in blue
Hubbard Scientific Glow-in-the-Dark Star Finder with Zodiac Dial (Set of 10)
On the other hand, if you mean by "affect" as "correlates with," then basing from the results of the study outlined above, you can say that certain Zodiac signs affect certain personality types.  You can only say "all Zodiac signs" if indeed each Zodiac sign has a significant correlation with a particular MB type. It is possible that two Zodiac signs correlates to the same MB type.  We'll never know unless we conduct the research.

But if there is no mathematical basis for such a belief, then belief becomes an act of faith: you do not anymore use as basis the scientific results; instead, you believe the testimony of others regarding the influence of the Zodica signs on your personality to be true.  And maybe you also saw for yourself that the personality description in the Zodiac sign fits what you think who you are.

One way to test this hypothesis is to get a list of Zodiac personality descriptions, cover the Zodiac names and signs, then ask a person to quantify in a scale of 1-5 whether the description applies to them or not, with 5 as most applicable and 1 as least applicable.  Then you create a matrix: with the rows corresponding to Zodiac names of the personality descriptions and the columns corresponding to the Zodiac signs of those who try to determine their Zodiac sign based on the personality description that they read.  The entry of the matrix elements are the numbers in the applicability scales given by the person.  To add variety, use different sets of descriptions of the Zodiac personalities.  If many people can strongly identify their Zodiac sign in four different sets of descriptions, then perhaps, there is something true about the Zodiac personalities, at least within the bounds of the said experiment.

Darth Vader wielding the red light saber
Star Wars Trilogy Episodes IV-VI (Blu-ray + DVD)
B.  A word of caution regarding horoscopes

Personality types are harmless, as long as you take them with a grain of salt.  But here's a word of caution: believing that Zodiac signs affect personality types (as we discussed previously) is different from believing that the movements of the planets affect what will happen tomorrow in your life and even in the years to come.  Even PAGASA, the Philippine Weather Bureau, with all its mathematical, scientific, and computational expertise, cannot exactly predict what will happen to our weather tomorrow, for it may rain in some parts of the city, but not in others.  Climate is easier to determine, because it is an average of years of observation: we know that these particular months will be rainy or less rainy, more prone to typhoon or less prone to typhoon.  In a similar way, personality is like climate because it is an average of years of observation (on one's own personality), so you know how you will more or less respond to particular situations.  But decisions that require answering the question "to be or not to be" or "to do or not do" are acts of will, and no amount of personality type analysis can predict specific actions.  Acts of will are like weather such as rain, you never know exactly what will happen next--in the next minute, in the next hour, in the next day. So how much more can a mere mortal predict what will happen to our life tomorrow, aside from what we have planned to do?  In this case it is better to heed what our Lord said:
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Mt 6:34)
Telescope with mounting
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope

Just remember the image of the Sto. Nino: the Christ-Child holds the world in his hands.  God knows everything.  We only have to trust in Him.  As Christ said:
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted.31 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Mt 10:29-31)
I think that the many horoscope predictions which came true are actually self-fulfilling predictions: a man reads his horoscope for the day, does things to avoid what accidents may happen; then some things happened during the day, and man interprets these according to what the horoscope says, stretching his interpretation so that the horoscope cannot fail in its predictions.  This is called conditioning and selective interpretation.  In Physics, this is similar to the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: an observer disturbs the state of the system he is measuring.

In order to test the validity of horoscopes, we have to make an experiment (again!) : Do not read horoscopes for a week, note the important things that happened to your life, then ask a complete stranger to read your diary then your horoscope to see if he can find connections. The man then provides the scale of accuracy of predictions from 1 to 10. Repeat the procedure but ask another person to read the horoscope first then your diary.  Do this for many strangers, then see if there is a correlation between what happened to your life and what the horoscope said.

But even if horoscopes seem to agree with what is happening in your life, we also have to remember that God forbids all forms of divination.  As the Catechism says:

C.  Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe provides a new framework for understanding the Zodiacs: the constellations adorn her mantle, because she is the Woman of the Revelation:
 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman* clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Rev 12:1)
If you wish for a more detailed astronomical discussion on these things, please visit the excellent blog entry by Veritatis Liberabit Vos: The Queen is the Ark, The Sky is Her Cope.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe Star Chart
Our Lady of Guadalupe Star Chart