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
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.
Sun, the Moon and the Ascendant: Three Cornerstones of the Personality
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.
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.
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.
Planets and the Personality
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).
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.
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.
Third House and the Mind
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
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.
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
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.