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Skeptics usually dismiss astrology as misguided pseudoscience. The leading skeptic in the world today is Michael Shermer, a university professor who is a prolific writer and director of the Skeptics Society. Dr. Shermer has made a career of exposing and debunking the claims of mediums, psychics, bigots and practitioners of the paranormal. His recent books include: Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science and Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time.

Professor Shermer graciously supplied his birth data for this article. Though he may not believe in astrology, a look at Shermer’s birth chart does illuminate what goes on in the mind of a skeptic.

The Sun, the Moon and the Ascendant: Three Cornerstones of the Personality

Skepticism is deeply rooted in one’s personality. In astrology, the most powerful indicators of personality are the Ascendant, the Sun and the Moon.

When Michael Shermer was born in Glendale, California, at 4:30 am on September 8, 1954, the sign Leo (the regal lion) was ascending on the eastern horizon. The Ascendant represents the persona that we project onto the world. With Leo rising, Shermer is likely to be a natural performer who is energetic, dramatic, feisty, fond of challenge and competitive in his interactions with others. Leo is one of the fixed signs, meaning that Shermer is likely to be self-assured, resistant to change and firmly convinced of the validity of his own opinions. It takes a lot to persuade a fixed sign to accept something he or she does not want to believe.

The natal Sun signifies one’s core identity. Shermer’s natal Sun lies in Virgo, an earth sign and one of the most skeptical signs of the zodiac. Virgo is skilled at logical analysis, classification and the precise use of language. Virgo’s ability to parse complex matters into their essential details leads many people with this Sun placement into teaching, writing, editing and all forms of criticism. Virgo loves to take things apart to see what makes them tick. Virgos also enjoy instructing others who may have overlooked the details that catch their discriminating eye. Most importantly, Virgo desires to be of service, to do something useful that will benefit others. No doubt Dr. Shermer feels that he is providing a valuable service by protecting the public from the fraudulent claims of charlatans of the paranormal.

The final key to personality is the natal Moon, representing one’s emotional and security needs. In Shermer’s chart, the Moon lies in Capricorn, an earth sign, like Virgo. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung linked the element earth to the psychological function of sensation. Like doubting Thomas in the Bible, Jung’s “sensation types” are natural skeptics who demand hard evidence before they will believe anything. They pride themselves on their capacity to make objective evaluations and to analyze matters logically and critically. To feel secure in the universe, those with their natal Moon in an earth sign feel a strong need for empirical evidence to shore up their beliefs.

Angular Planets and the Personality

Any planet lying close to an angle in the birth chart has a powerful impact on the personality. The angles of the chart are formed by the horizontal (east-west) and vertical (north-south) axes. Shermer’s chart has two angular  planets: Pluto near the Ascendant, and Saturn near the I.C. (Imum Coeli).

The planet Pluto, placed close to the Ascendant, signifies a person of tremendous determination and emotional intensity—someone who ferrets out secrets and will not rest until he or she gets to the bottom of things. Pluto is also linked to the investigation of psychic, occult and paranormal phenomena—an activity that Dr. Shermer has pursued for much of his professional life as a skeptic.

Angular Saturn, lying near the I.C. of the chart, is another indicator of a strongly skeptical mind. Saturn is the planet of hard-nosed reality and is often called the great teacher and taskmaster. People with a prominent Saturn are called on to prove themselves throughout their lives, and they usually hold others to the same high standards.

The Third House and the Mind

Mental functioning is shown by the Third House of the birth chart. In Shermer’s case, Libra, the sign of the scales of justice, occupies the Third House cusp, indicating an open-minded person who takes a balanced view and considers all sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion. Shermer’s Mercury, the planet of mind and communication, also lies in Libra, the sign of balance and fairness.

Neptune is the first of three planets occupying Shermer’s Third House of mind, suggesting that his approach to intellectual tasks is first through his intuition. He tunes into the core of an issue on a gut level, and then uses his Virgoan powers of rational analysis to detail what his gut feelings have already told him. Neptune is the planet of belief and spirituality, so it is no surprise that Dr. Shermer thinks a great deal about how and why we believe as we do.

After Neptune in the Third House come the planets Venus and Saturn, lying close together in Scorpio. Venus here indicates a balanced outlook and charming manner of self-expression. Saturn in the Third House requires that any information be judged against strict standards of reality. With both Venus and Saturn joined in penetrating Scorpio (ruled by Pluto), we have further evidence of an individual with a powerful, penetrating, skeptical and analytical mind.

Finally, the sequence of planets in the Third House of mind reveals the sequence of his thought process. Dr. Shermer is open to belief (Neptune), he then weighs all the evidence (Venus) and finally he applies strict reality-based standards (Saturn) before accepting any information as valid. He has the perfect astrological chart for a skeptic.



Anthony Louis is the author of Horary Astrology Plain and Simple and of Tarot Plain and Simple (Llewellyn Publications) and has also authored computer reports on secondary progressions and vocational astrology for Halloran Software. He has lectured internationally and has been published widely in astrological literature. He is a member of the Astrological Society of Connecticut and maintains the website of that organization at

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Other StarIQ articles by Anthony Louis:

  • Tarot and the Sign Sagittarius   11/28/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Libra   9/26/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Virgo   8/20/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Cancer   7/5/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Pisces   3/1/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Aquarius   1/13/2002
  • Tarot and the Sign Scorpio   10/31/2001
  • Tarot and the Sign Aries   3/26/2001
  • Tarot and the Sign Capricorn   12/19/2000
  • Astrology Looks at a Skeptic   11/12/2000
  • Tarot and the Sign Leo   8/6/2000
  • The Mystery of the Student Deaths at the University of Georgia   5/17/2000

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