Undead Nightmare OST: Bad Voodoo by The Kreeps »« This world is overpopulated. We’ve outstripped our planet’s resources.

How does one prove astrology? BY STARTING OVER.

The undying zombie astrology thread has attracted another latecomer to the party, this time Curtis Manwaring of Astrology X-Files, an astrology software developer who put together a seemingly testable hypothesis and added it as a comment on that thread. I’m moving my response to its own post, because frankly, nobody seems to be reading any of the follow-ups that have linked to it, and would rather continue the fight there. I’m tired of the single zombie thread, which is responsible for the vast majority of my database difficulties, causing me to hack my website to absurd degrees as a result. If it keeps attracting newcomers, I’ll close it, and add a comment saying “this post is closed, please visit any of the posts linked on page 9 of the comments if you want to continue the discussion.”

The meat of Curtis’ comment appears to be a way to test astrology, or at least one aspect of it. My problem with the suggestion is the same that I’ve had with the concept of astrology as a whole — it depends on a foundation that is simply not there. It builds on hypotheses that have simply never been proven, but rather always taken for granted. For instance, the hypothesis that there is any sort of correlation between the planets’ movements and people’s individual lives. Beyond this, much of what he suggests appears to disagree with other astrologers in the thread — even if you exclude Jamie “Darkstar” Funk of Dark Star Astrology (who has since attempted to shed his association with his ridiculous arguments here by changing his name). And to make matters worse, it appears to misunderstand statistical significance, the importance of sample sizes, and the importance of controlling for variables.

This is, as all my discussions against unfalsifiable and self-perpetuating memes, a long one. Grab a coffee.

I could suggest a course of action if there is anyone so inclined (I’m too busy with software development to take this one on now). One of many problems is that much of what is said as effects is not easily nailed down in a way that can be falsified, so a scientific proof will have to address this issue. For this area, the realm of the concrete particular is more desirable than spiritual / psychological astrology to avoid subjectivity as much as possible.

I like the idea of actually attempting to avoid subjectivity in studying astrology, but I’ve noticed that rarely will you find two astrologers who agree on what particular configurations of events actually mean. None of the present day body of “knowledge” of astrology is based on any such falsification, so to be totally intellectually honest, if we were to attempt to prove any aspect of it in concrete particulars, one would literally have to start over — to scratch everything that’s purported to be true about astrology and start from scientific first principles. The problem then, when doing so, is that one will literally find that every aspect of astrology that one believes presently, turns out to be either false or unfalsifiable. What is one then left with? Is it actually called astrology then?

As to causes, even if a correlation could be proved it still would not necessarily rise to the level of efficient causation, but more along the lines of material causes (see Aristotle’s 4 causes) at best. One issue that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere here (I confess I don’t have a lot of time and haven’t read everything here), is that not all charts were said to be equally telling (chrematistikos) according to Vettius Valens (he was an astrologer from the Hellenistic era who was roughly a contemporary of Ptolemy). What Valens said is that some nativities were more “fated” than others and these charts one can more easily “read” and that some charts fall into a category that are more difficult to discern because they are less “telling” (without getting into the technicalities of how that is determined here). I just highlight this issue because these charts are the best cases in which I can imagine any sort of proof because if it is true that some charts are more readable than others, then it is also the case that these are the cases that can prove whether there is anything going on or not.

The idea that any one chart is not as “telling” as another, is encompassed but not directly referenced by the idea that no two astrologers can agree on what a chart actually means. As it is not a science, and as most astrologers employ as much art as science even in creating the charts much less interpreting them, any attempt at producing a scientifically derived canonical body of astrological knowledge would injure pretty much every astrologer’s practice in some way. Having a scientifically derived body of knowledge, though, levels the playing field. It would no longer depend on who’s doing the astrological predictions, so much as flow from scientifically proven fact when certain aspects come into play in a person’s life.

If some charts are telling and some aren’t, that lends to selection bias. If you get a hit, that chart must have been telling. If you get a miss, either the chart wasn’t telling or you did it wrong — either way, selection bias will not allow for the possibility that astrology, as a field, was wrong.

Picking a chart and simply reading it is not the way to go about doing this because there are no boundaries set for truth or falsification that can be measured and the key is measurement. Science has had a long battle distinguishing the measurement and the measured from Heisenberg to Plato…

And there are other problems regarding falsification of particular charts. Namely, each set of aspects has not been individually studied to discover actual correlations between the aspects and some particular about the person’s life who is supposedly influenced by said aspects. Scientific controls are difficult to pin down with regard to astrology; I will certainly agree with you on that. But they are not impossible. They are more possible if you start from first principles.

There are also a number of assumptions that would have to be dismissed such as life being random or completely under one’s control. It is not logical to expect everyone to suddenly wake up at 3 am in Chicago and suddenly have a craving for studying calculus for example. By this I mean that certain patterns would be expected to begin with, so a baseline of what is “random chance” would have to be established to determine the norm.

Life is not completely random, nor is it completely under one’s control, but this is because we live in a deterministic universe. Cause always precedes effect, and if we knew all the variables, we could calculate out things like how a person’s life might play out. We’d need far more variables than what planets existed — we’d need everything, from every charge state and position of every molecule, and an understanding of how every molecule might affect every other. I suspect there is no such thing as free will — that we are chemicals and our present consciousnesses are products of our upbringings, and since we were in turn brought up by people whose consciousnesses are determined by their upbringings in a direct cause-and-effect sort of way, we’re pretty much doing exactly what we would do in a perfect full-universe simulation.

That is a digression. What I’m saying is, we can throw out “completely random”, and “complete free will”, but we shouldn’t throw out “deterministic” just because you’re studying variables that have negligible actual effect on the local population. Such as the position of Pluto when a person was born. Pluto doesn’t exert any influence on us. The only two celestial bodies that exert any influence on us are the sun and the moon, without which we probably wouldn’t be here to discuss this nonsense.

Again, in studying what baseline behaviour is, and determining what falls under the realm of “influence”, you would be best served by throwing out every bit of “knowledge” about astrology so far with the exception of the ephemerides — the movements of the planets and other heavenly bodies — because those are merely the easiest and most accurate way to predict where a planet might be at a given date. Teach a group of people how to build charts, then have those people create charts for a very large number of people from a very random selection set — let’s say ten thousand people selected in such a way as to prevent any sort of race, gender, location or affluence biases. Make the charts blinded — assign each person a number. Give these charts to your statisticians to attempt to find trends. At the same time, have these people interviewed by psychologists, and a good sense of the person’s actual psychology. Then have the psychologists and the statisticians compare notes. See if there is a statistical correlation between certain configurations and certain psychologies (and we’re not talking something that could be attributed to random noise — you’d need a large number of people with a specific psychology to suggest a specific event).

Once you have some possible hits, do not add them to your scientifically derived body of astrological knowledge yet. This is how astrology likely got its first start — by picking hits and saying “this must be how to interpret the signs”, then building on it from there. Once you have those possible hits, you need to attempt to replicate, using another identically configured test with another random but fair selection of equal size. Once you have replication of certain patterns, then and only then should you start looking for (again, a large sample of) people that fall under that pattern in order to see if there is a statistically significant relationship between people who have that pattern in their charts, and the specific effects you believe you’re looking for. If you can blind this, by having the tests carried out by different sets of statisticians, chart-makers and psychologists, that would be of course best.

Let me suggest that given that a chart with angular trigon lords and with the lot of spirit in the 10th sign from fortune, that when the zodiacal releasing reaches the 10th sign from fortune (if it does so in their lifetime) that they will reach their peak effectiveness and culmination of their actions (sometimes called fame). Obviously we would have to define “famous” in some way. I have done a few case studies such as what happens with actors (such as John Travolta who reached his peak and he was known for Pulp Fiction (1994), Saturday Night Fever and Grease(1977) when in his 10th from fortune period). George W. Bush reached his peak period starting in 1998 shortly before becoming president. Hitler reached his 10th from fortune period and the next day the Nazi’s won 108 seats in congress. Einstein was also in his 10th from fortune period when reaching peak fame. With more clearly defined rules, there is more hope for falsification which also allows for real verification.

Let ME suggest that your sample size is infinitesimally small. To achieve statistical significance, you’d have to have a very large, diverse and representative sample of people that match your selected criteria (e.g. who have angular trigon lords and a lot of spirit in the tenth sign, whatever that means), who are selected in such a way that other variables (e.g. country or region of birth, family cash-on-hand, etc.) are controlled for. Find me a few thousand people spread out amongst many family backgrounds and prove to me that there is no other variable that might account for the effect you’re claiming, and show me the data that shows that this particular chart orientation is statistically significantly correlated with the particular effect you’re claiming, and you might have something.

Rather than picking some people you know to be famous, then trying to find a correlation between them, pick a configuration and see if your totally random sample shows any trends that another control sample of completely random configurations does not. Repeat the test until you’re sure you’re not seeing noise in the data. Otherwise, you could be seeing a “mars effect” — a “statistically significant” result that actually isn’t significant at all.

I recuse myself of the responsibility of actually carrying out any of these suggestions, as I would be considered a hostile entity having argued strongly against astrology in the past. My protestations that my results are untarnished by bias, would naturally go unheeded, by virtue of my actual bias against things that people believe strongly, but show none of the intellectual curiosity or rigour necessary to make an honest assessment.

I am a software engineer and have a background in classical philosophy, statistics, mathematics, astronomy and the history of science.

I appreciate the note, but can’t help but think it is secondary to your argumentation. A question comes to mind — which did you study first? Astrology, or each / all of these fields of study? How much did you know about astrology, and believe about astrology, before you studied these fields?

You’re trying to set yourself up as an authority in several fields as though it means you have vetted the philosophical, statistical, mathematic and historical aspects of your field, being as it is the precursor to astronomy. Problem is, you’re still, in my estimation, starting from the principle that there is something to astrology, you just have to find an effect or a correlation or a mechanism. Normally one has one of the three before assuming they have anything at all. In a field that’s been investigated for as many thousands of years as astrology, one would think you’d have something by now.

I have no doubt in my mind that your astrology software (which costs a pretty penny by the way) is extremely effective at calculating out charts and events and such. They are very likely extremely well coded, polished pieces of software. And they’re probably very accurate in analyzing exactly where planets are, and exactly what charts would be drawn given the data at hand. My problem is not with the generation of the pseudo-random data, because it all has the patina of science, with complicated formulas and inscrutable charting formats. My problem is with the idea that all this pseudo-random data has been shown to have ANY correlation with reality whatsoever. As far as I can tell, it has not, and will not.

To this charge, every astrologer produces a small handful of hits, usually of famous events and celebrities. No astrologer has taken it upon themselves to increase their sample size beyond that small handful, and I can understand why — it’s a lot of work to do one chart, and when you get a hit, you’ve “gotten it right”, and it’s very exciting. I need more than people getting 25% hits throughout history before I’ll believe there’s any sort of correlation. I need way bigger samples, way better controls, and blinding, before any specific configuration-to-influence seems even remotely plausible. And once we have a configuration-to-influence correlation, I’ll need some plausible mechanism. That can come last, but it CANNOT be omitted in the pursuit of the truth about this universe.

You’re making the claim that it’s true. The burden of proof is on you. Otherwise, in view of the lack of evidence ever presented, I call hogwash on the whole self-perpetuating endeavour.

Comments

  1. says

    Sometimes the whole thing seemed like a standard religious argument to me.

    “My way is the One True Way™. The stars told me so. All others are heretics. Those Vedic astrologers are heathens!”

  2. says

    Well said.

    Another check Mainwaring could try would be to simply replicate any test by using a randomly generated chart (say for fifty years earlier) and comparing the number of hits. If a random alternative model works just as well, then it’s clear that the first model is useless, regardless of how much it seems to “explain”.

    And really, anyone who was sincerely interested, would privately do a whole heap of informal tests before going public. Just something simple like giving free readings for people they don’t know and using a random chart. If they were honest with themselves they’d see very quickly why it seems to work. (And if they honestly still felt there’s something in it, then they could graduate to more formal testing.)

    The bottom line is, if you can’t effectively test a hypothesis, you won’t know how to use it either.

    But of course it’s too late for all that. They’ve already promised the customers it works, so it’s a bit late to start honestly trying to find out if they’ve being bilking their clients or not.

  3. says

    My first field of study was actually astronomy back around 1969 when the Moon landing occurred. Astrology came years later around the time that I discovered that Neil Armstrong who landed on the Moon had my birth day which I thought was interesting, but did not assign any special meaning to at the time… then lastly, philosophy which is where I should have really started.

    You would do well to read my Theory of Geocosmic Coincidence in which I stated 12 years ago that any correlations were not necessarily causes. You didn’t address the issue of the 4 causes of Aristotle (material, formal, final and efficient). It seems that you are familiar with efficient causation, but not material causation. A material cause is something that is necessary but not sufficient in and of itself to generate an effect. An example of a material cause for something like “running” or “jogging” in a park, is having legs. Having legs does not make one run, but running necessitates having legs.

    Your comment about “Starting Over” is essentially what happened with Project Hindsight but it wasn’t “scientific first principles”, it was “philosophical first principles” because philosophy is the mother of science. The word Science comes from the Greek word “sciere” which means “to know” and scientific knowledge is now called “verified” knowledge. It was Plato who said that to know something, it must first come from the realm of eidos (the realm of Nous and pure forms). The word “inform” comes from this principle of Plato because we become “informed” by the eidei that impress its forms into us so that we become “formally” identical to it (as opposed to materially identical to it). So to start from a tabula rasa in the way you suggest is not exactly the way science operates in practice.

    When you say: “None of the present day body of “knowledge” of astrology is based on any such falsification, so to be totally intellectually honest, if we were to attempt to prove any aspect of it in concrete particulars, one would literally have to start over — to scratch everything that’s purported to be true about astrology and start from scientific first principles”… this is not entirely correct. The field of astrology is a mess for sure, but there are some areas which a many astrologers would agree on such as the 10th house having something to do with career, the 7th with marriage, etc… but interpretation varies widely, so to deal with this problem, because interpretations vary more widely in the present day than in the past, it is better to take statements from astrologers several centuries ago because they are more prone to deal with the concrete particular and statements that can be falsified (such as death by a certain date). Statements can be tested for truth or falsehood and behaviors are tested in Psychology and Medicine which are sciences. An astrological “behavior” can be formulated the same way, but I would prefer to avoid that because Science deals best with extension. What I mean by that is that science has trouble measuring intensive magnitudes such as the color “red” but can measure speed as “miles per hour”. This is because of what Descartes said about reality: that the only thing that is real in the world is extension. Even most scientists today dismiss this notion because as it turns out speed is really an intensive magnitude (because speed reaches a saturation point in the same way as red can get no “redder” at 100% saturation) as evidenced by Einstein’s Relativity Theory. The way science really operates is that there is a theory or an observation such as the idea of luminous ether for light to travel through in the case of the Michelson & Morley experiment which turned out to be the first strong evidence against such an “ether” (it was assumed that waves needed a medium to travel through).

    When you say: “If some charts are telling and some aren’t, that lends to selection bias. If you get a hit, that chart must have been telling. If you get a miss, either the chart wasn’t telling or you did it wrong — either way, selection bias will not allow for the possibility that astrology, as a field, was wrong.”… This is making assumptions of what would be done in the selection process. I am a trained researcher having done psychological studies at the University of Denver having worked on a PDP 1170 mainframe with Analysis of Variance tests on psychologicl constructs. Random sampling is not always done in science (Google the Bayesian statistical model – which could be used to deal with material causes)… but the proper way to do this is select birth data which fit the criteria of eminence as suggested by Valens (which by the way would not be a small sample, but could easily number into the millions), then ask each person if they felt like they had reached a peak moment in life where they received wide recognition for something that is a main aspect of their career. This part of the study would have to be “blind” so as to not taint the results as the people involved should not know when their peaks have occurred through familiarity with astrological rules (which would be unlikely in the case of Valens). The criteria for selection would follow concrete rules such as placement of the lot of spirit in the 10th sign from fortune, angular trigon lords, etc. There is no argument here as to what constitutes “telling” according to Valens, so use his rules and no one else’s.

    This statement: “Cause always precedes effect, and if we knew all the variables, we could calculate out things like how a person’s life might play out. We’d need far more variables than what planets existed — we’d need everything, from every charge state and position of every molecule, and an understanding of how every molecule might affect every other.”… lends itself to stoicism. I agree that the variables are far too few to generate exact results, but the goal is to render the life “intelligible” such that chapters of life can be recognized, not that they are exactly the same (consider what is the nature of a recognition – does it not involve a process of generalizing and filtering out?). Do we really generate meaning in our lives from scientific first principles? I think that is more in the realm of consciousness. I’ve felt like a bag of molecules from time to time because of the Zodiacal Releasing method, but there is another story, one of consciousness which science has not adequately addressed yet. We make something of the molecules in our lives and render them as “wholes” and with it we generate agnoia which is a necessary filtering mechanism to avoid autism.

    You stated: “You’re trying to set yourself up as an authority in several fields as though it means you have vetted the philosophical, statistical, mathematic and historical aspects of your field, being as it is the precursor to astronomy. Problem is, you’re still, in my estimation, starting from the principle that there is something to astrology, you just have to find an effect or a correlation or a mechanism. Normally one has one of the three before assuming they have anything at all. In a field that’s been investigated for as many thousands of years as astrology, one would think you’d have something by now.”…
    That one of the three is Philosophy. Remember, I’m not saying that there is a causal relationship at all. That is not even necessary. I’m only saying that it is useful because our lives follow patterns, but it is not necessary for there to be a cause for it to be useful. Coming from a scientific background I don’t blame you for not taking the subject seriously. There are serious researchers in this field and also because it is a disgraced field because of the clash between religion, politics and science, there is a lack of standards that are found in other professions.

    This statement: “To this charge, every astrologer produces a small handful of hits, usually of famous events and celebrities. No astrologer has taken it upon themselves to increase their sample size beyond that small handful, and I can understand why — it’s a lot of work to do one chart, and when you get a hit, you’ve “gotten it right”, and it’s very exciting.” … implies that I’m easily impressed. I am not. I’m not convinced that there is a causal effect to astrology at all any more than the hour hand striking the 6:00 am area bottom portion of the clock causes most people to get up in the morning. Nevertheless, they do. So if they weren’t conscious about their patterns about doing things, one could look to see.

    If you would like, I can specify here the exact criteria one could use for such a study.

  4. says

    Curtis, your conflation of magnitude and human perception in the discussion of light is appalling. As is your attempt to argue an analagous saturation of speed. Speed is limited by work, not by perception (which is where the principal of saturation applies), and the measurement of the magnitude of a sample of light has limitations in the design of the instrument, not in any property of the light itself.

    The rest of this is likewise gobbledygook. If you want to say you think astrology should be judged by something other than modern scientific standards, come out and say so. Don’t go on about ancient epistemology as though nobody else had ever heard of it and name dropping philosophers made you special. You might want to note that that sort of special pleading gives you much more in common with folks like Jamie “Darkstar” Funk, however.

    If you want to get on testing astrology scientifically, go for it. I warn you, though, that you’re supposed to feed your Bayesian statistics with a bit more rigor than you’ve shown here.

  5. says

    Stephanie Z: Curtis, your conflation of magnitude and human perception in the discussion of light is appalling. As is your attempt to argue an analagous saturation of speed. Speed is limited by work, not by perception (which is where the principal of saturation applies), and the measurement of the magnitude of a sample of light has limitations in the design of the instrument, not in any property of the light itself.The rest of this is likewise gobbledygook. If you want to say you think astrology should be judged by something other than modern scientific standards, come out and say so. Don’t go on about ancient epistemology as though nobody else had ever heard of it and name dropping philosophers made you special. You might want to note that that sort of special pleading gives you much more in common with folks like Jamie “Darkstar” Funk, however.If you want to get on testing astrology scientifically, go for it. I warn you, though, that you’re supposed to feed your Bayesian statistics with a bit more rigor than you’ve shown here.

    Speed reaches a saturation point called the “speed of light”. This is a scientific fact in which there is a problem of measurement in the context that I had this because I’m concerned with the properties of extension and measurement and how to avoid the intensive magnitude snare. That science has this measurement problem is a fact. I never said that speed is limited by perception, that is your conflation. When you gloss over the rest and say that it is “gobbledygook”, well, I will remind you that the same standards exist in medicine, psychology and other sciences which by the same logic you also just dismissed as being “gobbledygook”.

    But lets be more blunt here. You are hostile to astrology, so are already tainted by bias and this goes against any honest investigation. As such, your post doesn’t amount to much more than an attempt to smear and not a very good one at that. If you are an expert in the field, come out and say so, stating your argument in scientific terms, not slander. I already have a proven track record of being able to think critically at a very high level (my software would have too many bugs if I didn’t). If you have similar ability, you will not need to resort to character assassination which more often indicates a losing position due to ego attachment to ones ideas and an inability to refute the contrary.

    If you look more closely, you would see that I have real problems with the way many astrologers make statements.

  6. says

    Curtis, it’s not gobbledygook because I say so. It’s gobbledygook because it just puts a bunch of poorly described ideas in the same place as though they had anything to do with each other. Take this “intensive magnitde snare.” “Intensive magnitude” means that a property of an object is not additive across the object (unlike, say, mass). In order to reach the total from individual measurements, the property must be averaged or some other calculation must be applied that isn’t simple addition. That’s all it means.

    It’s true that speed is a property that falls under this category. You don’t add the speed of all the particles in the object to get object’s speed. However, that has nothing to do with why that object can’t reach the speed of light (which is not a problem of measurement). Not one thing.

    Nor is it the reason that studies of perception require some care in their design. That has to do with the fact that perception is not directly measurable and has to be interpreted through behavior. Which science does, thank you.

    Neither of which has anything to do with how one studies something that may account for only part of the variability within a group. This sort of study is done every day. It requires some complicated mathematics, but scientists do that math just fine.

    And none of any of that has anything to do with the fact that you’re pontificating about what kind of research should maybe be done while trying to sell a product without any scientific proof or scientific reasoning behind it.

    As for what expertise I have, I’d rather demonstrate it than claim it, thank you. Particularly since expertise is not something that transfers between fields, and critical thinking is something that must be consciously exercised instead of being a general property of a person.

  7. says

    Stephanie Z: Curtis, it’s not gobbledygook because I say so. It’s gobbledygook because it just puts a bunch of poorly described ideas in the same place as though they had anything to do with each other. Take this “intensive magnitde snare.” “Intensive magnitude” means that a property of an object is not additive across the object (unlike, say, mass). In order to reach the total from individual measurements, the property must be averaged or some other calculation must be applied that isn’t simple addition. That’s all it means.It’s true that speed is a property that falls under this category. You don’t add the speed of all the particles in the object to get object’s speed. However, that has nothing to do with why that object can’t reach the speed of light (which is not a problem of measurement). Not one thing.
    Nor is it the reason that studies of perception require some care in their design. That has to do with the fact that perception is not directly measurable and has to be interpreted through behavior. Which science does, thank you.Neither of which has anything to do with how one studies something that may account for only part of the variability within a group. This sort of study is done every day. It requires some complicated mathematics, but scientists do that math just fine.And none of any of that has anything to do with the fact that you’re pontificating about what kind of research should maybe be done while trying to sell a product without any scientific proof or scientific reasoning behind it.As for what expertise I have, I’d rather demonstrate it than claim it, thank you. Particularly since expertise is not something that transfers between fields, and critical thinking is something that must be consciously exercised instead of being a general property of a person.

    I bring up the issue of intensive magnitudes because many of the issues of measurement will have to be accounted for in a study that tests astrological constructs and many of the properties that astrology tries to measure have the same type of resistance to measurement, which is why I suggested that one should try to use a property that can be measured by extension. You are also putting words in my mouth that I never said… having said nothing about why an object can’t exceed the speed of light, so your objections to my handling of the problem of measurement misses the point. Science has its ways of dealing with the intensive magnitude issue, but the origins of the ideas about how to measure intensive magnitudes come from Philosophy, which is where science gets many of its ideas to begin with.

    Many areas in science also involve a fee without scientific proof. Research is paid for often times without proof of results, so what are you trying to imply? That one should never pay for anything that there isn’t proof for? Good luck getting research grants…

    Well if you have demonstrated your expertise in the way that I have, lets see what you’ve done in your field(s). I’ve demonstrated that I know what I’m talking about as evidenced by the software that I’ve written as it would be impossible to do without an advanced understanding of mathematics and astronomy.

  8. says

    Curtis, your “measurement by extension” is every bit as much gobbledygook as is your snare. “Extension” is just a fancy way of saying “how much space something takes up.” Your proposed experiment (which doesn’t require millions of participants and has its selection criteria way off base) has nothing to do with any kind of spatial measurement.

    Your argument above boils down to “Science has problems and can’t really measure things. Philosophy came first and informed science, so use that instead.” It’s plain old special pleading with gobbledygook to try to create problems in science where there are none and hand-waving to suggest that philosophy should stand in for science–when the entire topic at hand is the fact that there is no scientific basis for astrology.

    Your emphasis on qualifications instead of making sense is silly and predicable, but it does require that I point out that there are plenty of engineers who are creationists and computer programmers who think anarchy would be a good thing for them–people who require a massive public infrastructure to pursue their jobs. As I said earlier, expertise does not transfer. You might be able to make a machine describe the motion of the stars. That doesn’t mean you can provide an explanation of why that motion should affect individual humans or design an experiment to test your idea that it should.

    As for money, you’re not looking for research funds to test whether astrology works. You’re claiming it does despite plenty of evidence to the contrary and asking people to pay you to make it work for them. That’s a very different thing.

  9. says

    Science has its ways of dealing with the intensive magnitude issue, but the origins of the ideas about how to measure intensive magnitudes come from Philosophy, which is where science gets many of its ideas to begin with.

    This is an appeal to ancient knowledge. Just because ideas are old, doesn’t mean that they’re worthy. Philosophy is, as far as I can tell, both a way of trying to logically suss out the true nature of the universe, and a way of entrenching yourself in the inherent value of a particular idea. Neither functions of philosophy require, or even look at, evidence. Aristotle was one of the first great scientific thinkers, and practically came up with the idea of looking for evidence for things, and yet he still believed the Earth must be the centre of the universe because it was only natural. His philosophies and his views of the Ptolemaic solar system stemmed directly from that conceit, which he was unwilling to actually look for proof of. Likewise, because the roots of astrology (Babylonian, Hellenic, doesn’t matter) all come from the same conceit that there MUST be some correlation between where the Gods are in the sky, and when you were born, they are invalid as “ancient knowledge” now that we know they aren’t Gods, but are instead planets.

    I would no sooner take the study of astrology back to philosophical first principles than I would take the study of a new element to first alchemaic principles in seeing whether it can transmute lead into gold. Some fields give rise to other, more appropriate, more worthwhile fields. Alchemy begat chemistry, astrology begat astronomy, and philosophy begat science. Using logic to prove God is well and good, but without evidence, philosophy is every bit as lacking as science.

    As you know the history of astrology, I have to ask. How did astrologers, in general, come up with the specific influences from specific houses / planets / configurations? What was their sample size for these studies? Why can’t modern science replicate, or even improve and therefore prove, these influences? Why do you have to hide behind adding one confound after another to try to show how WEAK astrology is as a predictor, and at the same time and paradoxically, how STRONG?

    By this last I mean: you’ve said that some charts might not be “telling”. You’ve said that the stars’ configurations might be material causes as opposed to efficient — and while I’m not familiar with Aristotle’s formulation, this sounds to me like saying it’s a necessary condition but not a sufficient one. And yet you argue that astrology can be used in some grander, Hari Seldon-like, psychohistory of a person’s fate. Surely then, you can obtain and produce more data than the handful of hits you show! Surely then, you can put together the scientific study that would prove a statistically significant correlation between some aspect and some psychological configuration or set of events! Surely then, such publication of the study would benefit mankind materially, win you a Nobel prize, and improve all our lots significantly!

    I am a computer-savvy person myself. I’ve programmed excellent and insightful bits of bug-free code. I’ve come up with novel solutions to long-standing problems, and done so in time frames that make the companies I’ve done this for absolutely stagger at my abilities. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether science can prove or disprove something that you claim to have an effect but cannot be distinguished statistically from background noise. The fact that I’m staking this position does not mean that I have had a flaw in my judgment. Only that I demand a higher burden of proof, and am less easily impressed, than you have proven yourself to be in this conversation.

  10. says

    jthibeault:
    This is an appeal to ancient knowledge.Just because ideas are old, doesn’t mean that they’re worthy.Philosophy is, as far as I can tell, both a way of trying to logically suss out the true nature of the universe, and a way of entrenching yourself in the inherent value of a particular idea.Neither functions of philosophy require, or even look at, evidence.Aristotle was one of the first great scientific thinkers, and practically came up with the idea of looking for evidence for things, and yet he still believed the Earth must be the centre of the universe because it was only natural.His philosophies and his views of the Ptolemaic solar system stemmed directly from that conceit, which he was unwilling to actually look for proof of.Likewise, because the roots of astrology (Babylonian, Hellenic, doesn’t matter) all come from the same conceit that there MUST be some correlation between where the Gods are in the sky, and when you were born, they are invalid as “ancient knowledge” now that we know they aren’t Gods, but are instead planets.I would no sooner take the study of astrology back to philosophical first principles than I would take the study of a new element to first alchemaic principles in seeing whether it can transmute lead into gold.Some fields give rise to other, more appropriate, more worthwhile fields.Alchemy begat chemistry, astrology begat astronomy, and philosophy begat science.Using logic to prove God is well and good, but without evidence, philosophy is every bit as lacking as science.As you know the history of astrology, I have to ask.How did astrologers, in general, come up with the specific influences from specific houses / planets / configurations?What was their sample size for these studies?Why can’t modern science replicate, or even improve and therefore prove, these influences?Why do you have to hide behind adding one confound after another to try to show how WEAK astrology is as a predictor, and at the same time and paradoxically, how STRONG?By this last I mean: you’ve said that some charts might not be “telling”.You’ve said that the stars’ configurations might be material causes as opposed to efficient — and while I’m not familiar with Aristotle’s formulation, this sounds to me like saying it’s a necessary condition but not a sufficient one.And yet you argue that astrology can be used in some grander, Hari Seldon-like, psychohistory of a person’s fate.Surely then, you can obtain and produce more data than the handful of hits you show!Surely then, you can put together the scientific study that would prove a statistically significant correlation between some aspect and some psychological configuration or set of events!Surely then, such publication of the study would benefit mankind materially, win you a Nobel prize, and improve all our lots significantly!I am a computer-savvy person myself.I’ve programmed excellent and insightful bits of bug-free code.I’ve come up with novel solutions to long-standing problems, and done so in time frames that make the companies I’ve done this for absolutely stagger at my abilities.This has absolutely nothing to do with whether science can prove or disprove something that you claim to have an effect but cannot be distinguished statistically from background noise.The fact that I’m staking this position does not mean that I have had a flaw in my judgment.Only that I demand a higher burden of proof, and am less easily impressed, than you have proven yourself to be in this conversation.

    Of course ancient knowledge doesn’t mean worthy knowledge. But as for the center of the universe argument, this is a matter of frame of reference. From an individual standing on the surface of the earth, the geocentric model still works within the framework that it was designed for, but fails if the criterion is gravity. Relativity theory also has it’s limitations which Einstein tried to overcome, disagreeing with the principles Bohr introduced in quantum mechanics. I disagree though that taking a discipline back to philosophical first principles is useless. This has been done before – a case in point is what one of my teachers did (Robert Schmidt) in the field of algebra and the work of Francois Viette though investigation of the philosophical first principles of the Greek mathematicians.

    As to your question about how astrologers came up with their ideas, it would depend upon the era. Robert Schmidt has argued that there was a branch of the middle Platonic school who may have systematically created a natal logic based upon philosophical first principles. I will refer you to Project Hindsight for more info on this. However my answer as to why science hasn’t found anything is for multiple reasons… not the least of which is that people are resistant to seeing what they don’t want to believe and make up their own realities, skeptics and woo woo’s alike. Politics have played a major role in astrology of the past and kings have executed astrologers over personal interests and predictions that went wrong and because our knowledge can not be perfect, any mistake is seen as disproof against the backdrop of science. But this is a red herring because science has many flaws as well from the failure of string theory to the inability to understand consciousness with Kant writing about similar philosophical problems in his “Critique of Pure Reason”. It is ridiculous to suggest that there would ever be a Nobel prize for proving any sort of correlation in astrology. What is more likely to happen if astrology was accepted (more likely in private than in public), is that your insurance rates for health care, auto liability, etc would be determined by astrological configurations which is not something that I would want to see. This world is wretched enough as it is without that kind of perverse and cynical use of knowledge. Humanity is not ready (and may never be ready) for that sort of proof and as long as an individual is not willing to see the patterns under which they operate, one should be allowed to live free of that. You yourself said that there were patterns because life is not random which we both agree on, so it is simply a matter of finding the measurements. Much of astrology is steeped in religion which is going to guarantee that people will not see any proof even if a pattern could be discerned. Reason rarely prevails over belief. Science still struggles to convince people against their emotions, especially when politics come into play.

    It is much harder to build something up than to tear it down, but I do agree with you that a higher standard of proof would have to be met than currently exists in the field. I am personally interested in this, but I doubt that many here are interested in anything other than boosting their own morale by tearing others down by pretending to be more intellectually sophisticated without actually doing the work in the way that I have tried to do.

  11. says

    Curtis, please stop blockquoting entire comments. There’s a reply function if you want to be sure that people will know to whom you’re responding.

    Now, would you care to explain how string theory and “consciousness” are failures of science? String theory is so new that it’s only within the last year that anyone has suggested a way to test it. And even if that test fails to support this particular theory and favors a different one instead, we know more about the nature of the cosmos, which is the point of science. Hardly a failure.

    As for consciousness, I assume you mean the phenomenon of self-awareness. I have a tough time seeing this as a failure either. Every year that goes by brings more information on the subject–what kind of impairments reduce the sensation, what other animals appear to share it, how a strong or weak sense of self affects other cognitive processing. In fact, I’d have to count that body of knowledge as an awfully big success.

  12. says

    Let’s maybe stop discussing supposed shortcomings of the scientific method (especially where you offer no proof for your assertions and misuse scientific terms with aplomb), and instead focus on how to show that some particular aspect of your astrology is actually valid. You want more rigorous studies, which is good. But which aspects of your astrology do you accept uncritically, e.g. the 10th house having to do with careers? Have you examined those aspects, and made any sort of real effort to determine whether that aspect is actually valid?

    Do not misunderstand me. I do not want to “tear astrology down”, especially not “just” because it’s astrology. I would be very happy to build it up to something respectable, if only by developing real proof of real correlations or influences. As astrology stands now, it is discredited because it has no foundation — the entire edifice is built off of millenia of selection bias.

    I do not care that astrologers were once killed by kings for making predictions that turned out false — this does not mean that those false predictions could have been made more correctly. It means only that the astrologer did not correctly cold-read their king, and instead gave him an honest assessment of what he/she believed their charts said. It is unfortunate that the upsetting chart resulted in death, but it is more unfortunate that the chart had no correlation to reality.

    Project Hindsight is, from what I can tell, an attempt at reconstructing the methods of the ancients with regard to astrology. It is not an effort, from what I can tell, at reconstructing the REASONS (e.g. EVIDENCE FOR WHY) they believed certain correlations over others. It is, in effect, one very large appeal to ancient knowledge.

  13. says

    And for the record, I find your suggestion about not wanting to prove astrology because of insurance companies taking advantage of people, to be most distressing. Insurance companies have long since created inequalities between classes of people because of mathematical statistics, but being able to foresee these potential pitfalls in advance of their happening is well worth not being able to insure against them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  14. says

    Agreed on the insurance issue, there are many consequences like this that can’t be forseen and I for one am glad that the subject of astrology isn’t taken so seriously that a cynical use of it could develop political traction. It is one of the reasons that I take this up with people who are interested, but to be aware to take the surrounding mythology with a large grain of salt as not having a causal nature (remember the clock analogy I made above).

    I don’t accept that the 10th necessarily has to do with careers uncritically (the problem of house division makes that necessary), it is a relative consensus amongst astrologers that could be tested. I wouldn’t waste my time where there is disagreement. I’m a very busy person, but at some point I will lay out a plan for statistical research that could be undertaken in the same way I did back in the Psychology Dept. at the University of Denver.

  15. says

    Whoever “disliked” Stephanie’s comment, be aware that it is absolutely and empirically true. Curtis Manwaring is indeed selling software that helps astrologers ply their craft, despite the fact that he says said craft does not have the level of proof supporting it that even he’d like.

    As civil as this conversation is, if it turns out that Curtis’ statistical study (when he gets the free time to do it) convinces him that he might be in error about astrology as a whole, then he was indeed making money off of something that turns out to be false. Well, false at least in his estimation — even if he were to develop a study that proved unequivocally that astrology was based on selecting hits amongst statistical noise, he would be deemed hostile to the field and the true believers would go on believing.

  16. says

    I am personally interested in this, but I doubt that many here are interested in anything other than boosting their own morale by tearing others down by pretending to be more intellectually sophisticated without actually doing the work in the way that I have tried to do.


    Au contraire,
    what you are running into is a genuine desire for you to be able to defend your claims, a curiosity that has not yet been met by any of the cheerleaders for astrology to back up any sort of claims that there is a measurable effect that can be traced through astrology which demonstrates a connection between celestial bodies and movements and the fortunes of individual humans.

    We are told of complicated connections, requiring tables, graphs and maths to show that you are doing some sort of work to predict the life-affecting interactions between celestial and earthly bodies.

    You have the onus as a defender to show how your work can be used to build a testable hypothesis and have responded with special pleading.

    That’s all we ask, and we also ask that you discontinue avoiding producing such a testable hypothesis. The null hypothesis is that there is no measurable mechanism to show that astrology is efficacious in describing human traits nor providing guidance for decsion-making.

    Disprove it.

  17. says

    The astrology software company Astrolabe, Inc has filed a complaint at a Boston court claiming that the open source Olson time zone database used by Unix, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, IBM, HP, Linux and the BSDs (Apple, Juniper, Isilon/EMC), etc infringed upon Astrolabe’s copyright:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111006/11532316235/astrolabe-claims-it-holds-copyright-timezone-data-sues-maintainers-public-timezone-database.shtml#comments

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>