I’m curious what people think: which is a poorer example of science?
A hypothesis that is tested and proven wrong, or
A hypothesis that is so nebulous that it can’t even be tested?
I ask because Nature has just published a letter describing a very simple experiment to test one of the predictions of astrology, that people born in certain months share predictable personalities and experience similar events. Here’s how Steven Lower (Nature 447, 528: 2007) of Ohio State University tested the validity of horoscopes:
I present the students with 12 randomly numbered horoscopes from the previous day, with the corresponding signs of the zodiac removed. I ask each student to record the horoscope that best describes the day she or he had, and the astrological sign (for example, Aries) corresponding to her/his birthday. My scientific hypothesis is that planets may exert a force on our bodies, but it is purely random — 1 out of 12 (8.3%) — whether a horoscope foretells the events of one’s life.
I am pleased to report that, as Shawn Carlson has noted, “astrology failed to perform at a level better than chance” (Nature 318, 419-425; 1985). The results from my classes are: 8.0% (n = 163 students), 8.4% (n = 155), 7.0% (n = 143), 8.0% (n = 138) and 8.0% (n = 100). In other words, as John Maddox has commented “astrology is a pack of lies … There is no evidence that the positions of the planets can affect human behaviour” (Nature 368, 185; 1994).
Michael Behe infamously stated that under his definition of science, both astrology and Intelligent Design creationism could be accommodated. If you ask me, I’d say astrology has better cause to be called a “science”—it at least makes specific claims (which, I know from experience, astrologers will hastily back away from when they are shown to be wrong), where ID creationism seems to propose absolutely nothing, other than that evolutionary biology is incorrect, offers no hypotheses, and subjects none of their proposals to testing.