Should Scientists Date People Who Believe in Astrology?

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I remember, when I was getting to know Amanda, carefully exploring certain key issues such as this. It actually didn’t take long to find out that we had almost identical political views, and perspectives on science, rational thinking, religion, and so on. (I say “almost” only because there is room for variation, but I can’t think of any actual differences in perspective … only differences in level of attention to various issues).

[a rewritten repost from wayback]

Anyway, here is a piece by Aaron Rowe in The Wired on the topic:

While searching for a soulmate on several online dating sites, I caught myself disregarding anyone who professed their belief in astrology.

At roughly the same time, a friend called my attention to this clip from The Big Bang Theory, which thoroughly picks astrological superstition apart.

Am I being too hard on my New Age counterparts?

In my book, astrology is a silly shortcut for understanding how the world works, but so is judging people by their spiritual beliefs.

Scientists are sometimes guilty of using ridiculous heuristics too! For example, principal investigators sometimes hire graduate students based on grades and standardized test scores rather than their ability to work well in a laboratory.

I think Rowe is too dismissive of belief systems as an indicator of how a relationship can develop, at least for me. Most of my friends are agnostic or atheist, but not all, and many colleagues and acquaintances, some of my students, and co-workers, etc. have various religious beliefs (including astrology, I assume) and this does not interfere at all with our interactions. In fact, since I first penned this essay I have developed two relationships with people who are nominally not atheists. One is an Evangelical Christian whom I chose to believe is an atheist down inside somewhere not too deep, and who has many other qualities that have drawn us into each other’s orbits in mutually helpful and productive ways. The other is a person who is very clear on the concepts of science and medicine but nonetheless possesses parallel new age beliefs. Again, a mutually respectful and caring relationship is not affected by these beliefs at all.

Sometimes annoyances can happen, and one should never be afraid to respectfully point out that no, it is not OK to assume that any “good” person must also be “spiritual, at least” and so on. I don’t hold ignorance about atheism against anyone, any more than I would want a Hindu to hold ignorance about Hinduism against me.

But a pair bond is different, in my opinion. At least for me, there are conversations that I need to have that would be impossible with someone who was religious, astrologically inclined, spiritual, or whatever. This seems to hold at least somewhat true with other loved ones in my life. One of my best friends is an atheistic Buddhist scientist, and we totally love each other and have those conversations, but I think her Buddhism is not even close to a religious perspective, and in her version of Buddhism, the analog to “heaven” is you die and then there is eternal nothingness. Relatives, including mine and Amanda’s, are increasingly religious as you go out from Ego, sort of like a Religio-Cultural red-shift effect. That’s interesting. And I know that if there were conversations that I need to have that would not work with Amanda, I could find satisfaction with others with whom I’m very close.

But on a day to day basis, religion, skepticism, science, the evolution-creationism “debate” and a number of other topics are so important and ubiquitous (for me, given what I do and who I am), that I need to be mated with a person with very similar views.

I am not really of two minds of this, even though I’m on the cusp of Gemini.

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10 thoughts on “Should Scientists Date People Who Believe in Astrology?

  1. I think this is my first time on X Files. One of my experiences with a person who believed in astrology is instructive here. He kept forgetting my star sign and could never work it out (I am very typically Taurus). So he kept asking me. For a couple of weeks after he found out he kept saying “but you should do such and such because you are Taurus”. Eventually I realised that he used it as a short cut to getting to know me. He could react to me as if I was a Taurus (when he knew that I was) but did not know how to react if we just had a conversation (when he did not know). In other words, do not even think of having a relationship with someone who used astrology in that way.
    Strangely, much though I dislike the tyranny of religious belief, I do not think that religions work quite that way. They tell us how everyone should strive to behave (and that there is a let our clause, often as not) but not how they will behave. So I think I would rather have had a relationship with someone religious than with someone addled by astrology.

  2. At the last Pride fest I was working the MN Atheists booth and an man came up to us who insisted that he was an atheist and thought there was nothing supernatural and we should always be evidence based, etc…but he said astrology was real. He claimed that what planet was in your sign when you were born would determine what kind of person you are. One example was that people with Mars in their sign are going to be athletes, I can’t remember which planet it was(there was a loud ringing sound in my brain just about then) that was for politicians, writers, etc. He was quite sure that this was true, because someone on the Internet had made lists of famous people and you can see it with your own eyes! I don’t know what’s more irrational; someone who believes in the supernatural and astrology, or someone who claims to be a naturalist materialist and believes in astrology. You’re right, it’s a good idea to drill down to see what people really believe.

  3. I think this is my first time on X Files.

    Iain, of all people YOU should know the reference intended by “The X Blog”!

  4. My high school class recently had a reunion. That unofficially requires everyone to google everyone. A girl from the past popped up on a psychic’s web site giving a glowing testimonial.

    I commented to a co-worker “Good thing that one didn’t work out.”

    He replied “A girl seeing a psychic is a deal breaker for you?”

    “Her seeing a psychic isn’t a deal breaker for me. Me calling her an idiot for seeing a psychic would probably be a deal breaker for her.”

    : )

  5. Y
    The problem with clever allusions is that there are several possible codes that could be in operation.

    There is another episode of Big Bang Theory where Leonard has to cope with the fact that Penny believes in psychics.

  6. No, probably not. While, as Jason and Jodi are evidence of, skepticism and astrology can come together, note that Jodi is not into astrology any longer. My own parents are evidence that cult like Christianity and atheism can come together and manage a loving relationship for 34 odd years, I am pretty sure that I couldn’t handle it and rare indeed are people who can.

    While Juniper often challenges my ideas and I hers (which is a good thing), we are a safe place for each other in terms of some very fundamental aspects of who we are – including being irreligious. I think that while it is important to have ideas challenged – even important ones, it is equally important to have a safe space where if not always agreeing, you and your partner will understand when such challenges need to be set aside. And I absolutely could not tolerate a partner who tried to proselytize to me – whether about religious notions, or any other spiritualist claptrap, including astrology.

    There are just some things I have no interest in dealing with with my partner – this would be one of them.

  7. I think it’s -possible- to date someone with this sort of a difference but (like most things “relationship”) it would take work and needs to be weighed against all the other things that take work and whether the benefits outweigh the costs. My current partner (3.5 years and counting, which is like a billion in “gay years”) I’d have to qualify as “apathetic agnostic” in that he really doesn’t care. I can’t even start to put myself in that headspace, but it seems legit: unless some god came down right in front of him, and, I dunno, tried to interrupt his TV viewing or something, the idea of the supernatural is just an interesting plot point to be used in fiction. So, when I want to discuss my ever-evolving opinions about the supernatural (which, I’m probably going to dismay my friends and mother and end up as – in their words – a “militant atheist”) I have to go elsewhere….

    But that’s something I -like- about my partner. I sometimes get too heated in debate, and it’s nice that he can calm me down through his ever-comforting apathy.

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