What’s your sign?

The Bad Astronomer prompted by the same question at Cocktail Party Physics asks about etiquette when a conversation turns to beliefs about things not supported by science, like astrology.

For religion, I just shut up, dodge the question, and generally go along with the before dinner prayer and what not. I grew up with it, so it isn’t even a conscious thought.

For astrology, when asked “What’s your sign?” I have a fairly stock answer.

“My *sign* is ‘Speed Limit 299,792 km/s'”.
Most people quickly figure out that I am an intelligent dork, appreciate puns, and do not believe in astrology or other para-psychology. Sometimes generates questions like “Huh? Two hundred…what?” For those who asked as a way to get conversation going rather than any from any cherished belief, the answer leads to a far better conversation. Unfortunately, for those who really believe in astrology any further conversation leads to problems for me.

The problems come from talking about how stars and planets do affect my life – in a very real and measurable way. But not in the way astrology claims. More like causing me to look up to enjoy the expansive beauty and I end up stumbling or tripping over something on the ground. Or the more long term effects from looking up, asking questions, learning astronomy, then at some point getting the notion to go there. Which in turn has influenced many of my life choices. But astrology doesn’t say you where born on such and such a day therefore you will grow up to be a rocket scientist.

“So there could be something to it? Right?”
At this point exasperation sets in and it is all downhill. “No, no, no! Look, when I was born astrologers say the Sun was in Virgo. Only one problem, it wasn’t. It was in Leo. Never mind all the people born the same day or the same hour as me who aren’t even interested in science and engineering, let alone actually rocket scientists.”

The best thing I have found is to excuse myself for a trip to the washroom and hope the conversation has turned by the time I get back.

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