Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Astronomy vs. Astrology: Do People Even Know the Difference?

Do you know the difference between astronomy and astrology? A new study, which was prompted by the surprising findings of another study, has indicated that some Americans may not know the difference between the science that is astronomy and the superstition that is astrology.

Recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released the updated result of an ongoing study about peoples' continuing beliefs in astrology and whether it has scientific merit. The finding that caused some surprise when the results were tallied: the percentage (55%) of people who believe that astrology “is not at all scientific.” Taking the numbers farther, that means that 45% of the population believes that astrology has some scientific merit. As another point, the survey found that 58% of respondents aged 18-24 believe that astrology has scientific merit. So, are Americans really that ignorant?

Well, they might be ignorant in another way, which is exactly what psychologist Richard Landers postulated when he saw the NSF's findings. The questions that came to Landers: (1) do people even know the astronomy/astrology difference and (2) how could the ability to differentiate between the two impact the NSF findings?

In his study, Landers asked 3 questions of respondents:
Define 'astrology' in 25 words or less
Do you believe astrology to be scientific?
What is your highest level of education?

As for the overall results, Landers found that about 30% of respondents believed astrology to be scientific. However, upon delving more deeply into the data, Landers found an indication into why so many people believe astrology to be scientific: they can't correctly define 'astrology.' For people who correctly defined 'astrology,' there was widespread belief that it was not scientific at all or only slightly scientific. For those who couldn't define 'astrology' (and who probably confused it with astronomy), there was a vast majority belief that astrology was somewhat to very scientific.

Implication: the NSF may want to reconsider how it does its future studies on astrological beliefs, making sure that people can differentiate astronomy and astrology because, as Landers has shown, failure to do so can skew the findings so as to make it look like more people believe astrology to be a science than who really do.

Still, the fact that in 2014 people still have a hard time differentiating astronomy and astrology is a bit disturbing.

Or more info:
The Full Study

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