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This article is a revision of one that appeared on October 25, 2000 on The original discussion was based on an inaccurate birth time, the bane of serious astrologers.

Skeptics usually dismiss astrology as misguided pseudoscience. The leading skeptic in today’s world is Michael Shermer, a university professor, prolific author 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 cover topics such as why people deny the Holocaust, why people believe weird things, how we believe, pseudoscience and the search for God in an age of science.

Professor Shermer graciously supplied his birth data for this article. Originally he indicated that he was born at 4:30 am on September 8, 1954 in Glendale, California. Recently he located his birth certificate and discovered that his birth time was actually 7:30 in the morning. Although Professor Shermer may not believe in astrology, a look at his birth chart may help astrologers understand 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.

The Ascendant  represents the persona that we project onto the world. In the inaccurate 4:30 am chart, the sign Leo was rising on the eastern horizon, suggesting a person who is a natural performer, energetic, dramatic, feisty, fond of challenge and competitive in his interactions with others. Changing the birth time to 7:30 am gives Shermer a Virgo Ascendant, which indicates someone who is typically mild-mannered, unruffled, calm and meticulous with details. Tiger Woods is a good example of a person with Virgo rising. Not knowing Professor Shermer personally, I cannot say which Ascendant, Leo or Virgo, better describes him.

The natal Sun signifies one’s core identity. Shermer’s 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 natives of this earth sign into teaching, writing, editing and all forms of criticism. Virgos love to take things apart to see what makes them tick. Virgos also enjoy instructing others who may have overlooked the details that catch the discriminating Virgo eye. Most importantly, Virgo desires to be of service, to do something useful that will benefit others. With both his Sun and Ascendant in Virgo (making him a “double Virgo”), Dr. Shermer no doubt 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, which is 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. With his key astrological personality factors (Sun, Moon, Ascendant) all in earth signs, Professor Shermer is emphatically a skeptical Jungian sensation type who insists on indisputable reality-based evidence before he will assent to any proposition.

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 7:30 am chart has three angular  planets: Mercury and the Sun in the east near the Ascendant, and Mars  in the north near the I.C., or the Fourth House cusp.

Mercury, which conjoins the Ascendant, was the wing-footed messenger of the gods. He has come to symbolize communication, writing, verbal ability, quick thinking, swift motion and intellectual pursuits. Mercury falls in Libra, the sign of balance and fairness, indicating that Shermer is a person who weighs all the evidence before reaching a conclusion.

The Sun and Mars both partake of the element fire, which adds an energetic, pioneering and competitive spirit to Shermer’s basic earthy (skeptical) temperament. The prominence of Mars and the Sun has a similar meaning to Leo rising, which was a factor in the erroneous 4:30 am chart. Shermer is a warrior (Mars) who does battle with false beliefs.

The Third House and the Mind

Mental functioning is shown by the Third House of the birth chart. In Shermer’s case, Scorpio, the sign of investigation and penetration, occupies the Third House cusp, indicating someone who studies matters deeply and seeks to bring hidden issues into the light of day. Scorpio is the sign of the detective, surgeon, psychologist and scientific researcher.

There are no planets in the Third House, so we look to the rulers of the Third House cusp for further information about his thinking patterns. Scorpio has a traditional ruler, Mars (the god of war), and a modern ruler, Pluto  (the god of the underworld).

Pluto indicates, among other things, an interest in the occult and paranormal. Pluto, a ruler of the Third House of mind, lies in the sign Leo, suggesting someone who wishes to shine and be noticed for his intellectual achievements. Pluto also conjoins the cusp of the Twelfth House of spiritual matters and how we believe.

Mars, the classical ruler of his Third House of mind, lies in the earth sign Capricorn. This placement of Mars reinforces the earth/sensation-type theme and the strong inclination toward reliance on empirical data and skepticism. Mars also lies in the Fourth House of family, home and tradition, which suggests a significant interest in history and intellectual foundations.

It is instructive how a difference of three hours in the birth time changed the emphasis in the interpretation of Shermer’s chart, but kept the basic personality description the same.


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
  • Michael Shermer: Astrology Looks at a Skeptic   10/25/2000
  • 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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