Ed Kohout is one of THOSE kinds of trolls. The ones you know are just trolling from the get-go, but that you just have to feed anyway, just to see what levels of douchery they can realize. In my repost of “How does One Prove Astrology? By Starting Over”, our new friend Ed has taken it upon himself to go on several Gish gallops, spouting so much effluence and demi-truths at such a rate that no single human being could possibly keep up without giving up their job, their personal lives, and ridding themselves of the monkey-on-their-backs that some people call “sleeping”.
Ed has an irritating habit of, rather than merely blockquoting someone and referring to their names, instead including demeaning or degrading verbs in place of “said”. For instance, people “bleat”, “wail”, or “scramble for cover” every time they refuse to accede to his rhetorical demands. I will do likewise in each instance where I blockquote him. I will endeavor to pick the most appropriate verb for each quote (and reserve the right to verb some nouns). Sorry if it gets repetitive.
He’s ended his latest tirade with a demand that I show him one single astrology book that refers to gravity as being the source of astrology’s purported effects. To wit, Ed douched:
As for the perennial straw-man featuring gravity, Jupiter, babies and obstetricians, please cite the astrological claim that the gravity of planets determines the astrological effect.
I want a real citation of a real book, some text somewhere that makes this claim. Surely you know right where to go.
I will not partake in this thread any further until you do so.
Which is why I will reply! I’d never do anything to alienate my new friend Ed!
Certainly, I don’t have extensive knowledge of astrologers’ pseudo-random number generators, and have admitted as much a number of times. The fact that I have not read any books on astrology (at least none that deal solely with it), should not deter me from pointing out a number of times in the course of my blog that the claim has been made by an astrologer of some repute. For instance, Robert Currey of astrologer.com said:
The most established and accepted mechanism is gravity and orbital resonance of the Sun and the Moon which affects the Earth’s oceanic tides and the Earth tide (body tide). The tidal force is part of what some astrologers call natural astrology which also includes the study of the coincidence of seismic activity with celestial positions. The most popular ancient book on astrology Tetrabiblos by polymath, Ptolemy, contains the first records of a tidal connection with the Moon – a theory he derived from ancient observation.
Funny, that book name sounds familiar. Certainly I’m familiar with Ptolemy and his contributions to science, but understand that there are many important, intelligent historical figures that were flat wrong about any number of things. How many important scientists believed, for instance, in God? Regardless, Ptolemy may have been right about any number of things, but that doesn’t make him any more right about astrology by mere extension.
Now as to the familiarity of the name of that book, Tetrabiblos, Ed had douched about it in the following blockdouche:
The fact that Mars was called Mars is entirely because it was red…
… and thus they figured an appropriate choice for the fiery sun god. The Greeks replaced all the gods with their own when they nicked the whole practice.
Have you ever read Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos? I wonder why he never got the memo.
My description of the events leading up to the specific planet Mars becoming associated with war since Babylonian astrology — when it was named Nergal because it was red and thus possibly fiery, as befitting their war god — was indeed a bit of a grammatical tangle, owing largely to my trying to speak colloquially rather than formally, as is my idiom in comments. Ed Kohout, in this blockdouche, refers to a book by Ptolemy that deals a significant amount with both astrology and gravitational (e.g. tidal) forces. I don’t know whether Ptolemy actually ascribes the astrological “effect” to gravity per Robert’s mentioned “natural astrology”, since I have not read Tetrabiblos (I prefer science textbooks written within the last hundred years, at minimum — and the newer, the better). I’ve also not read the Qu’ran, though I’m certain it’s pretty wrong about most of what it has to say too. One does not need to read all the latest fashion magazines to be free to call the Emperor’s new clothes nonexistent. Cross-reference: the Courtier’s Reply, a common tactic used by religionists.
Coincidentally, Ed himself refers to tidal forces (evidently in conjunction with some intrinsic relationship between the metals in the planets and the metals in our bodies). He douched:
See the solar system as a big machine, a big dynamo, an energy generating system governed by giant masses of gas and rock churning away, ever causing the distribution of charged particles and gravitons to fluxuate.[sic]
And elsewhere he douched:
UK astrologer and prof Nick Kollerstrom penned a wonderful book called “The Metal/Planet Relationship” which outlines the history of — you guessed it — the relationship of metals to planets in astrology.
He devotes an entire chapter on some experiments that tested the ability of metals to dissolve in a saline solution under certain astronomical alignments, specifically Moon/Saturn, Mars/Saturn, and other Moon/XX conjunctions.
Here, he’s referring to the Kolisko Effect, named after Lilly Kolisko who invented the concept in the 1920s. Nick Kollerstrom provided pretty much the only experimental verification of the results, as I find absolutely nothing on arxiv.org and only one astrology book on Google Scholar. Kollerstrom is more recently famous for being stripped of his University College, London honorary fellowship for holocaust denialism, so his works might be too radioactive for other scientists to touch at the moment. The effect merits further investigation, but nobody seems particularly interested for some reason. Nonetheless, if there is indeed a correlation between the positions of the planets and solubility of metals, that’s an interesting bit of physics, and may even have some small but measurable effect on our metabolism. I’m not sure how it could have an effect on our behaviours in aggregate, at least not without providing some kind of easily testable hypothesis that nobody working in the field of astrology has done any research on.
But then, nobody’s bothered to show an astrological effect of any sort to begin with. Every time you ask, all you get is a small amount of hits in a sample suffering grossly from selection bias. You’ll never receive anything even remotely approaching statistical significance. And when you do get something approaching statistical significance, you’ll find out that the bar for significance was artificially lowered such that you could pull an “effect” out of randomly generated numbers more often than not.
Regardless of who claimed why astrology works how, nobody has ever shown any sort of effect, and Ed has even douched a permutation of that old quote about “lies, damned lies and statistics” in an effort to misdirect away from the fact that no effect has been shown with any degree of statistical significance (which was the whole point of the post on which he reposted his challenge — the first time he challenged me, being on my coverage of Jamie Darkstar Funk’s history purge).
The effect is paramount. You can have an effect in search of a mechanism, or you can have a mechanism in absence of an effect, but you can’t just assume an effect (on arguments from antiquity, no less) then go hunting for a plausible mechanism.
Ed claims that by invoking and dismissing gravity as a mechanism, we are attacking a strawman. Perhaps that’s not what he claims as a mechanism (though he mentions tidal forces several times), but it’s actually not an argument meant to stand on its own. The discussion of gravity is in actuality one premise of a larger argument that works like this:
- There are four fundamental forces by which particles in the Standard Model can interact over a distance.
- If astrology actually demonstrates a measurable effect on humans’ lives, it must explain it by one or more of these forces, or both postulate and demonstrate that another force exists.
- Take as an accepted premise for this argument that astrology has an effect — there is a separate argument regarding whether an effect has ever been shown.
- Astrologers have not postulated an alternative to these four forces.
- The first force, the Weak Interaction force, operates on Planck scales. It is responsible for initiating radioactivity in atoms. It cannot operate over the distances required to be responsible for astrological effects, unless indirectly by radiation, which is measurable and not presently measured. Most planets are, additionally, not significantly radioactive and especially not over distances required to reach Earth.
- The second force, the Strong Interaction force, holds quarks and atoms together. This force dissipates after a few femtometres. It cannot operate over the distances required to be responsible for astrological effects.
- The third force, the electromagnetic force, describes both magnetic fields and electricity. It is hundreds of times weaker than the Strong Interaction force. It operates over large enough distances to plausibly provide a mechanism for astrology, assuming that the only object we care about is the Sun, the richest source of electromagnetic energy (in both heat and light) in the solar system. Other bodies like our neighbor the Moon, nearby Venus, extremely distant Pluto or Mercury have no or nearly no magnetic field. Jupiter has a large magnetic field, and was one of the first extraterrestrial radio sources we picked up, but its radio emissions are dwarfed even by the emissions on our own planet, not to mention the sun. Because not all the planets have an electromagnetic field, electromagnetism would result in some of the bodies referenced in astrology having no influence whatsoever.
- The fourth force, gravitation, describes the attraction between objects with mass. It is far weaker than electromagnetism. It operates over large enough distances to plausibly provide a mechanism for astrology, assuming that the only objects we care about are the Sun and the Moon, which together account for nearly all the tidal and orbital forces our planet experiences. It has been dismissed at length in this post and contributors’ comments.
- From 2, since all four forces have been dismissed for various reasons (5, 6, 7, 8), and since astrology has not postulated and sought to prove another force (4), astrology has no plausible mechanism by which the effect could be caused.
Note that point number 3 explicitly declares that whether astrology has an effect has been accepted as true for the purposes of this argument only. Whether astrology has a mechanism is a separate and distinct question, and means significantly less than whether astrology has an effect.
I don’t expect that Ed, or any of his astrological compatriots who will one day darken these blog-halls, will ever attempt to show any actual effect (much less a plausible mechanism that explains all the effects) they claim for each of the planets. I don’t expect to change a single mind, especially not one so entrenched in his dogma as Ed Kohout.
I do, however, intend to milk his attention for all it’s worth, and strongly encourage him to continue posting vitriol (“where and when did you finally get your GED? I hope this question is not UNWARENTED.[sic]“), demonstrably false acrimony (“It’s quite funny how you all live in these fantasy zones where your emotions are your reality and the nuts and bolts are easily ignored.”), failed predictions about my sex life (“Jason, are you indigent? I’d love to see your birth chart. Maybe we can find out why you have no girlfriends (or boyfriends?) and what you can do about it.”), grammatical nitpicks (“[again with the "you". Do you not understand basic English?]“), and victory laps in every single comment. This douchery isn’t even limited to skeptics’ forums — he’s evidently pissed off whole forums of astrologers as well. What do you expect from someone who links to “9/11 Truth” conspiracy theory websites on his vanity/business webpage, and once even used this platform to call for a revolution on September 18th, 2008 (ostensibly to coincide with an opposition of Saturn to overthrow moneyed interests in the government)?
You’re an entertaining fellow, Ed. Just not for the reasons you think you are. And no, not for your Kevin Nash coiffe, either.
Looking back over this post, it seems the most appropriate verb for every single quote was “douched”. What a crazy random happenstance.