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Jul 18 2010

The State of the Astrology Non-Debate

The thread over at Funk Astrology where Jamie Funk has pretty much cast me as an inquisitor hunting astrology heretics, wherein I’ve asked several times that someone actually show up and address the questions in my post, has netted us a number of amusing trolls but nobody actually addressing my post. Oh, I mean, you get the odd person saying “astrology just works, and science can’t explain it”, which pretty much equals “ya gotta have faith”, and people saying “you haven’t studied it, therefore you don’t understand it”, which equals the Courtier’s Reply, but the fun is short-lived.

Especially if all you get in the way of an actual attempt at a falsification is “tell us your personal information so we can do a chart on you”. Never mind that a) pretty well everything you could ever want to know about me, my life’s history, my personality traits, etc., are all on my blog and all you have to do is sit down and read; and b) even if I told them how they’re wrong they’d probably turn around and say I was lying or they’d make up excuses for why THEY’RE right and I really DO have the personality traits they think I do; and c) they’d probably just end up saying I’m a bitter old curmudgeon with a closed mind (or whatever else they’re projecting onto me at the moment). Meh. Frankly, I’m just not interested in a bunch of wackos having my personal information, even if I have a lot of personal information right here on this blog already.

I did promise I would cross-post my original article into the Deepwater Horizon thread at Jamie’s blog, and that IS something I welched on. When I went to do the cross-posting, I honestly forgot that I had said explicitly where I’d post it. So yes, I was a jerk in that respect. I said I’d give Jamie today (with his barbecue and spending time with his fiancee Marina), and I managed to not post there myself (and ignore my own blog for the most part!) for the day as well. So I haven’t been stoking the fires. Tomorrow, as long as the topology hasn’t shifted significantly, I’ll copy my “smells like Funk” post over into a comment on the Deepwater Horizon thread and fulfill my original promise.

I just posted this comment, my way of reminding everyone exactly what I wanted to talk about, and what I wouldn’t be goaded into discussing. I couldn’t resist taking one comment from someone who evidently believes personal attacks that are easily falsified qualify as debate, and throwing a few facts in their face. I don’t think I did much fire-stoking here, do you?

I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t spend much time online today, but I just can’t let this particular comment pass.

@Teri
It’s evident you didn’t read my blog, or the comments therein. I can tell because you think nobody in my family or circle of friends has ever consulted an astrologer. In fact, in one of my comments, I pointed out that I married an ex-astrologer. She did all sorts of natal charts for people, and she thought she was “the real deal” and that horoscopes in papers and interpreting sun signs were crap. She has since discovered it was all selection bias, mind you, and that reality is really cool when you let it tell you about itself, but hey. That won’t stop any of you from making assumptions and insinuations that can be so easily disproven just by going over to the offending article and actually reading it.

So far this entire thread has devolved into telling me that I don’t have any facts to back me up, or that I follow some kind of scriptural dogmatic science religion, or personal attacks on my character. I don’t mind those. I’m actually quite used to them. I’ve fought for years on the internet against creationists trying to replace scientific teachings with “the earth was made by God six thousand years ago, evidence be damned”, so I’ve had every one of those attacks levelled at me. I’m pretty inured at this point. The only one of you that seems to have their heads about them is Rob, who (while he incorrectly assumes I fear character assassination) actually understands that this “debate” isn’t going to go anywhere as long as it’s driven out of some kind of attempt at hectoring.

Everything else, about people trying to peer-pressure me into proving religion is true by quoting the bible err sorry, proving astrology is true by doing my natal chart, can stop barking up that tree. Unless someone decides to be super-creepy as Deb suggested they should (I work in IT, I know how easy it is to obtain personal information about someone without their consent, but if you do it, you’re doing it without my consent, ergo creepy, capisce?), there will be no interpreting my astrological influences when you could find out everything you could ever want to know about me, my personality, et cetera, from my blog.

I’ve set the terms for what I want to actually talk about — that being my concerns about astrology, how it could work, and how I suspect it probably can’t. I’d like evidence to back up that the planets have any sort of influence on humankind whatsoever, outside of the few we know — Jupiter sweeps away asteroids, giving us a better shot at life; the moon drives our tides and churns our oceans; and the sun provides us with all the energy we need to overcome entropy. I know, I know, you can do a chart and find out why things happened after the fact via your framework, but have you ever tried doing up the wrong date for an event and explaining that event with the incorrect chart? Have you noticed how you can pretty well explain any event with any chart if you try hard enough? Outside of post-hoc rationalizations (e.g. doing charts after events), what proof do you have that there’s any kind of effect? Have you measured that effect? What drives the effect, and how does it affect only who and what it does?

Those questions, and more, are asked in my post, and I strongly welcome any of you to answer them. You know, rather than this unproductive and one-sided screaming. Again, if nobody’s interested in actually debating what I’ve posted, I’ll consider the matter closed, with no willing participants. I’d prefer Jamie do it, since he’s the one who challenged me, but if someone can give me any kind of explanation outside of “science can’t explain astrology” (which equals “you need faith”) in my mind, please take a shot at it! That’s why I’m here, and I’ll leave if I don’t get it.

(On second thought, if you just want to be rid of me, thinking I’m nought but a troll, then maybe you should just stand around and call me names and demand my birth information some more. I know when nobody’s serious about actually defending their beliefs in the context of the evidence to the contrary.)

So long as nobody’s actually addressing the content of my post, my interest in this fight is waning rapidly. I feel like I’m beset by jackals, but every one of them toothless and clawless and they’re busy trying to gum me to death. It’s nothing I won’t survive, but it’s getting really irritating.

14 comments

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  1. 1
    CyberLizard

    That last paragraph gave me a really creepy visual in my head.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Just doing my bit to screw up your sleep study. ;)

  3. 3
    Rich Wilson

    I’ve only read all this with half interest, so apologies if I missed it, but have you noticed that as good as astrology is at explaining the presence of traits, it never seems to be able to explain the absence. That is, now that I look at your chart I can tell that you’re very inquisitive, indicated by the fact that Saturn in in conjunction with Jupiter in the 3rd house.

    But your Sun and Rising signs are both Gemini, and and a ton of other stuff points to you being wishy washy? But you never change your mind? Oh, um, well, you DO change your mind when you get GOOD evidence! See, you’re wishy washy after all.

    According to my charts (European and Chinese) I should drive a red sports car, wear gold chains and Gucci suits. None of which could be further from the truth. Ok, my Corolla is red. It was the only one left at the firesale price.

  4. 4
    George W.

    I include “getting gummed by jackals” as one of my all time favorite hobbies.

  5. 5
    sinned34

    Tsk. Looks like Jamie deleted my comments in the Somerset Holiday thread, and his own responses to me in that thread where he essentially said that astrologers have been murdered and persecuted for thousands of years, and that it was time for astrologers to “fight back”. He then gave me the vague threat that my miserable life was “about to get much worse.”
    I made a rookie mistake and never took a screenshot. Sadly, the Google cache only shows my original post in the thread and not his responses to me, or my final post in the exchange.
    Hell, I thought my last response was a fairly respectful attempt to deflate the hostility between him and I. Ah, well. Looks like I’m out, and it’s up to you guys! (Not that I expect you to receive any responses with actual content in them.)

  6. 6
    Thor

    Hi,
    I’ve followed a few of these debates and am always struck by the lack of knowledge of the history of astrology and its different methods by both the practitioners and critics of Western astrology. Astrology has a more ancient and profound history – as part of the ancient Vedic civilisation – than most people realise. Moreover, both sides would do well to become more prediction oriented in their assessment. A scientific approach is needed, even if astrology is based on a multitude of factors that cannot be replicated as an experiment. The saying “One never steps in the same river twice” captures the complexity. Astrology therefore requires a great deal of human insight to isolate salient influences. Essentially, if the type of astrology used can’t predict accurately, it means it also can’t interpret horoscopes accurately. The key is to determine if there is a system that can do so consistently! While I’m not interested to “prove” astrology through debate you are welcome to check out my work. Best wishes,

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    So you’re not interested in proving that astrology has any merit whatsoever, insofar as you don’t care to show how there are any mechanisms by which it can “work”, but you welcome people to look at the long history and to check your work out specifically?

    I appreciate the historical perspective, that’s fine — I’d rather that information not be lost to history, because it shows that people have been misled for a very long time. Likewise, given the long history of the geocentric model of the universe, I’d rather the history behind that not simply disappear now that we’ve proven that the solar system is heliocentric. Bear in mind that the geocentric model is as historically steeped and has the same longevity as the concept that the stars can have any influence on human events, so if you’re going for “ancient Chinese secret” type arguments from age, you’re a far cry from proving there’s anything to astrology. There are a lot of practices that are really very old and have been passed down for thousands of years, but their age does not make them valid.

    If you’re just spamming, looking to increase your website’s hit count, I’m tempted to remove the link if you don’t plan on engaging at all here. If you’re looking to prove there’s a predictive effect, you have to first prove there’s an effect. If you’re looking for rubes to take in that might be willing to pay for your services, you won’t be likely to make much money off my audience.

    Unless you want to engage in the “debates” (by which I mean, answer the questions that anyone must answer if you intend to show there’s any merit to astrology whatsoever), don’t bother posting stuff like this here. Thanks.

  8. 8
    Thor

    Hi I’m not interested in debating, just sharing insights. You know the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. In the same way you can debate ad infinitum without any resolution. It is only by doing that the validity becomes evident (or not). I’m sorry if that frustrates you. You are free to delet my post if the information is not helpful, but I don’t intend to prove anything beyond what I share on my blog. Best wishes,

  9. 9
    Thor

    By the way, I could add that I’ve made numerous predictions in mundane astrology based on a new national horoscope for the USA, when the Perpetual Union was formed, and the Systems’ Approach (vedic astrology).
    hxxp://cosmologer.blogspot.com/2010/05/crisis-in-summer-of-2010.html

    To repeat, the making of predictions, I think, is the only way to determine if astrology has merit (or not). Of course, an objective attitude is also needed when making the assessment. Astrology is not an easy field – but then again neither is any other field of human inquiry.
    Best wishes,

  10. 10
    Jason Thibeault

    Really? You’re really going to keep claiming your particular brand of astrology can make predictions, and that it’s “not an easy field”, and that it’s a legitimate field of inquiry after centuries of being tested and proven worthless? And you’re going to come back and paste at me *another* link, to increase the traffic to your blog and to have your blog spidered from mine when search engines happen by?

    No, I don’t think so.

    This is my answer to any and all claims that astrology has any utility function as a predictive or explanatory method of inquiry into human events. If you cannot answer any of the questions posed in my debunking post, and are not willing to debate, then you get your links mangled.

    Astrology can be tested by finding a mechanism by which it can work, by measuring it, and by determining how exactly that mechanism actually influences people’s lives. It is, by all appearances, a pseudo-random number generator whose results are powered entirely by selection bias. Your particular work in this field is very likely no better or more novel than Jamie Funk’s, and like his, presented without evidence, and he was unwilling or unable to defend the field as well. So like his, your claims to special knowledge can be equally dismissed without evidence.

    Put up or shut up.

  11. 11
    Rich Wilson

    Just wanted to show my appreciation of the solution. Remove the link so google won’t follow it, but leave it there for any human to copy/edit/paste if they so desire.

    That’s not the solution another prominent blogger used not too long ago, and that never sat right with me.

    I’m sure we’ll hear about you in the news Thor, when you’re brand of Astrology is able to make accurate predictions. Heck, there are enough people out there in the news who CAN’T make accurate predictions.

  12. 12
    Jason Thibeault

    Heh. My even-handedness only goes so far, though. I removed the links in his name (to the same blogspot site, by the by), and if he returns only to post more links, he’s going straight in the spam bin.

  13. 13
    Thor

    You are really straining for a rebuttal if all you can propose is to delete any link to my evidence. My blog is entirely non-commercial and the results of my work are free to read. That said, I have no interest being associated with the likes of you with fixed ideas irrespective of new information.

  14. 14
    Rich Wilson

    I think we have a different understanding of ‘new information’. From what I can tell, you’re proposing different prediction methods. But frankly I don’t care if you’re rolling dice, or bones, or talking to an octopus. Until you can show empirical evidence of your results, you’re no more interesting than anyone else trying to find correlation between stars (or cephalopods) and world events.

    Perhaps you could ease your task by narrowing the space in which you’re trying to make predictions. Say, the stock market, or rain. If you could predict either of those with 100% accuracy, I’m sure we’d all be impressed.

  1. 15
    Daily Horoscope: Pay Attention, There Will Be A Test. « Misplaced Grace

    [...] for the past several days, been sidetracked by an ongoing debate with astrologers over at my friend Jason’s blog.  The previous post does a good job of explaining the basics for those readers who are new to this [...]

  2. 16
    Daily Horoscope: You’re In A Circle Jerk With The Confirmation Bias Fairy « Misplaced Grace

    [...] final comment in Jamie’s post at the time of this post was also cross posted at Lousy Canuck by “Chris”.  It is a tempting idea for astrologers, and one that is inevitability [...]

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