Wacky astrologer is wacky

By Phil Plait | June 16, 2010 7:30 am

Terry Nazon is a professional astrologer. That really tells you right away most of what you need to know: she’s wrong, because her whole profession is based on misinterpretation, bad science, and human fallacy. Astrology doesn’t work.

Oddly, astrologers tend to flip out when you mention that to them (and they really freak when you go into details, as I did in that link above). They claim you don’t understand astrology, you’re in denial, and that besides, their flavor of astrology is The One True Flavor. Of course, when you ask for actual specifics, they lapse into goobledygook, spin, and anecdotes.

So I was not surprised at all to get an email from my friend, astronomer and nonsense-debunker Stuart Robbins, claiming he was getting threats from Ms. Nazon. He had the audacity to apply a little logic and reason to her claims (and it really only takes a little) and prove them to be totally wrong. You can read his reports here, here, and here.

What happened next, according to Stuart, is that she went on the attack. You can read all about it on Stuart’s site as well as a followup he posted. I’d say they were amusing, but I’ve been on the receiving end of such nonsense in the past, and it’s at best tiresome, and at worst very unsettling. While I’m sure her attacks are full of sound and fury — signifying nothing — things like that are a nuisance. It’s like having a cloud of non-biting insects around you; ultimately they won’t hurt you, but they’re darn irritating.

And if you plan on reading the comments below on this post, I suggest you gird your loins (or, for you Leos, gird your lions), because no doubt there will be a flood of astrologers coming in to leave their little tidbits of silliness. That’s fine; I appreciate it when they do, because it invariably demonstrates that they haven’t actually read my debunking of astrology linked in the first paragraph above, or, if they did read it, they didn’t actually absorb it.

Because if, they did, they’d understand the one single most fundamental thing about their field:


Related posts:

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Dear Media: Hello, It’s me, Science
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Comments (221)

  1. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I bet they say that the scales are balanced between science and astrology, and that we are all virgins before the mysteries of the stars.

    [- So, what do you do? – I’m an astrologer. – No, I mean what do you do?]

  2. My sister-in-law warned me that it was a bad time to try to sell my house because Mercury was in retrograde and you shouldn’t make financial decisions during this period. She didn’t mention anything about that fact that we were in the middle of a housing collapse and no one’s houses were selling. I’m sure she thinks of it as a win.

  3. AliCali

    On the first link to Stuart’s site, I like the second comment (by Jonathan Waxman).

  4. Procyan

    You’re starsign says that you will pay taxes for a while and then die.

  5. thetentman

    My sign is Feces. Hence my wife’s nickname for me is “sh*thead”.

  6. The few people I know that pay any attention to astrology say they only do it “for entertainment”. It’s easy to debunk someone who actually bases their life’s decisions on astrology, but people who say it’s just for fun? What do I say to them?

  7. Richard Wolford

    It’s at the Alamo…in the basement!

  8. Thanks for mentioning this, Phil. To be sure, the very first message I got from Ms. Nazon was an e-mail that stated in the first line, “The FBI has been notified.”

    The second line: “Please remove your word press blog about me I don’t even have a book on 2012, pls target the people who do.” It’s fairly clear she didn’t read my posts as I never said anything about her writing a book on 2012, just that the information was on her website. And I’ll note that she still has all the wrong information on her site … complete with spelling mistakes.

  9. costas

    My horoscope told me that astrology sucks.

  10. Ray

    For grins I looked mine up.

    LA Times:
    Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): You’ll get more than the usual amount of attention from people you’re not expecting to even talk to.

    San Francosco Chronicle:
    SAGITTARIUS (November 21-December 20)Put feelings of restlessness aside and dutifully honor your obligations. Once fulfilled you’ll experience the freedom you crave.

    Rock River Times:
    Sagittarius (Nov. 22 to Dec. 21)—A friend or loved one will offer an exciting adventure this week that you should not pass by. OK, yes, there is always work to be done. However, you’re ready for another break in the monotonous cycle of your overwhelming schedule. When you come back refreshed and rested, you can accomplish way more than if you had “kept your nose to the grindstone.”

    Sacramento Bee:
    Sagittarius (November 22-December 21) You could wake up feeling a little stiff in the joints this morning. Early-morning confusion will give way to sudden inspiration. Distractions and interference can’t hold you back today. It’s fine for partnerships, legal matters, taxes, accounting, budgets, inventories and supplies.

    Huh? They’re all different. Now I’m just confused. How will I run my life now?

  11. rob

    hey, where the astrologers at?

  12. Dan I.

    @ 8 Stuart R.

    So what exactly is she notifying the FBI about? If anything you’re the one with a legal case against her.

  13. Kees

    @ 12 Dan I.
    Possibly that Jupiter’s alignment with Pluto and Venus being in the second house means it is a bad week for fighting organized crime gambling rings?

  14. JT

    @ 6 Carry

    I’d say just leave it be. If they’re just looking at astrology for entertainment then trying to “debunk” in would be like going to a D&D player and trying to debunk magic missile.

  15. Hedgie

    @12 – she’s notifying them that “Mercury is in Retrograde and that The Moon is in Saggitarius, which means something something fate destiny home loans and relationships now arrest him for not saying things about things I didn’t do” :)

  16. AGW is congruent to astrology. We all have our blind spots don’t we.

  17. Cheyenne

    I actually do read my horoscope in every new addition of The Onion. They have the only readings I trust.

  18. Hmmm. . . . you’d think she might have seen all this coming?

  19. @ 16

    Sigh…

    We know where your blind spot is, don’t we?

  20. @12 Dan – I was guessing that it was either (a) she was trying to notify them (who knows why) for libel, especially since in all my posts about her I tell people not to pay her money since she doesn’t know anything that 2 minutes with freeware will show, or (b) because she claimed she was getting death threats from people as a consequence of my blog … which isn’t my fault in any way since I didn’t advocate for anyone to kill her.

  21. @20 Stuart

    She hasn’t gone to the FBI about something you have done silly. She has done your chart and she has gone to the FBI about something you will do in the future… that you haven’t thought of yet.

  22. The thing that is really retrograde is the intellect of astrologers. First they want us to believe the absurd notion that the positions of some big rocks and gas giants at the time of our birth can tell us anything about our lives then they threaten people who question their absurdity. Make no mistake about the fact that if some of these buffoons (astrologers) had their way it would be illegal to debunk astrology and we would be punished for doing so. Happily they are totally powerless to impose consequences on people who publicly debunk their ersatz profession.

    A good many astrologers also believe in other bunk such as psychic powers so as I have done in other blogs I will dare them to use those “powers” to make me shut up. You see we can say anything we want against astrology and they have to sit there and take it. They can do nothing about it.

  23. Well, Stuart’s blog gave me a nice piece of information about the sky on the evening of August 12th. A crescent Moon, Saturn, Venus, and Mars, all very close, and Mercury nearby.

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Sky+from+New+York+8%3A15pm+august+12

    (Replace “New York” with your location, if needed.)

    OMFSM! With all that mass on the same side of the Earth, it’s going to cause massive quakes and destroy the planet! Wait, the Earth can’t be destroyed until December 2012, so we’re safe.

  24. @16 Avery

    AGW = Anthropogenic Global Warming?
    AGW is congruent to astrology if the scientific consensus is for astrology. I don’t think that is the case. Do you?

  25. BA
    Great image!
    Did you do it yourself?

  26. Gus Snarp

    I’ll guarantee you one thing, if the position of bodies thousands of light years, or even millions of miles away have some effect on our lives beyond the radiation and gravitational effects we already recognize (mainly from the sun and moon), then astrologer have absolutely no idea what those effects are because they have no viable explanation of how the effects operate and no way to test their theories.

  27. Drivethruscientist

    Seriously, where are they all at? I wanted to fan the flames. :(

  28. Josie

    “like going to a D&D player and trying to debunk magic missile.”

    I wanna cast…Magic Missile.

    Why are casting Magic Missile? There’s nothing to attack here.

    I…I’m attacking the darkness!

  29. Utakata

    BA wrote in part:

    “..because no doubt there will be a flood of astrologers coming in to leave their little tidbits of silliness.”

    …and no doubt accusing of you of a political biast and manipulating the facts to suit your own agenda. As well as pointing out this an astronomy site, so you should stick to writing about just that. Just saying…

  30. stompsfrogs

    @ 19 & 24

    (Don’t feed the troll)

  31. I would like to announce that I am working on a Systematic Theory Of Ontological Philosophy Including Damn Near Infinitely Trivial Silliness, which will, in one fell swoop, combine all the wisdom of astrology, numerology, pathology, falling-off-a-logology, catastrophism, ufology, pyramidology, and pretty much every other goofballogy into one neat and tidy package. STOOPIDNITS will soon be available in a limited edition scroll, hand-written by me on twelve volumes of high-quality, eco-friendly rolls.

    Contributions greatly appreciated. Send check or money order c/o the above address.

    Offer not valid in this or any other universe. Some restrictions apply. See your horoscope for details.

  32. knew they’d be out sooner or later….

  33. Steve in Dublin

    In the very first sentence I ever read by Terry Nazon (in the first debunking article by Stuart that the BA linked to) I’m informed by her that:

    On December 21, 2012 The Winter Solstice, the Earth and the Galactic Center align.

    Now… as I understand things, you need more than two objects in order to have an alignment situation. For instance, if Jupiter is aligned with Mars, that implicitly means from the perspective of an observer on Earth. So how can the Earth align with the Galactic Centre, if you’re *on* the Earth? Aligned with the Galactic Centre with respect to *what*? Aren’t two objects *always* aligned if you’re on/at one of them?

    From my standpoint, she’s just stringing impressive sounding (to her, anyway) words together without understanding what it actually means. First sign of woo. Unless… I’m missing something here.

    ETA: also… the Milky Way is *not* the Galactic Centre. Sagittarius A is considered to be. More mistakes in the same para.

  34. and on another note….
    It’s Dr. Phil’s (sorry) blog, if you don’t like what he writes… PISS OFF !!!!

  35. not a sorry blog, sorry for the Dr. Phil. Maybe my head shrinker needs to check my meds. ;=)

  36. Michel

    brrrrr….
    horrorscopes

  37. GJeff

    “Astrology is rubbish.” I read that in a fortune cookie – the definitive source for truth and accuracy.

  38. This may have been posted here before, but here is a link to an article that makes it clear that Einstein rejected astrology. Advocates of that pseudoscience claim that Einstein accepted it.

    http://www.slideshare.net/user60080166/the-end-of-the-einstein-astrology-supporter-hoax-presentation

    BTW back in 1997 an astrologer in California said that he was going to do a horoscope for the Pathfinder probe that had just landed on Mars. I wonder if anybody has some info on this because it would be entertaining to see how they figure the influnce of Earth on an inanimate object. Not to mention wondering how you figure a moment of “birth” for a man made machine.

    If you can determine the validity of an idea based on how people react to the questioning of that idea I would have to say that the reaction of astrologers to debunking shows the foundations of astrology to be built on sand. It is rare to find an astrologer who is capable of having a give and take discussion about astrology. Most of them either refuse to answer questions and all to often react the same way as that clown, Terry Nazon.

  39. In Soviet Russia: stars read YOU! :-o

    And That’s the best graphic concerning astrology… ever.

    Also funny that one of those horrorscopes (yes I did that on purpose) predicted an event in my day. Too bad it was for a Sag. and I’m a Gemini. ;)


  40. “Gird your lions”

    I get my horoscopes from George Hrab…

  41. One of us should start an astronomically accurate astrology site. Charge the gullible for information that’s at least partially accurate . Here’s a tip: anyone with an internet connection can find the accurate positions of solar system objects for free. Heck, it may be a good fundraiser for your local astronomy club or favorite charity. And it would be as deceptive as astrologers or the other cretin of astronomy, the so-called “International Star Registry”.

  42. @kuhnigget
    Say, you may have something there! You could start the next “Scientology” type religion.

  43. @ Non-Believer:

    My E-meter tells me that would be a bad idea.

  44. I’m amazed at the number of people who haven’t seen the AIB graphic before. You must have gained a lot of new followers recently Phil! I feel like a veteran now, since I was reading way back when this was good old MoonLandingHoaxDebunkingLand :)

    r.e. astrology – it’s hokum. But then, a Taurean is bound to say that.

  45. Chris A.

    Re: #16 Avery:

    Are we now to the point where we need the AGW equivalent of Godwin’s Law?

    I’m going to call it “AGneW’s Law,” to wit: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of someone trying to hijack the thread to a debate on Anthropogenic Global Warming approaches 1.”

    In context: “Nice attempt to Agnew the thread Avery. Go back and hide under your bridge now.”

  46. Steve in Dublin

    Agnew’s Law. I like it :-)

  47. RMcbride

    First a question, how do you guys handle the situation in which someone wants you to let in this malarchy in the name of fairness or evenness?

    Second, Hate to quibble Phil but in the document in that first link you name Pluto a planet.

  48. Bill

    @kuhnigget:

    Great idea! How can *I* join the STOOPID-NITS???

  49. hello

    I don’t understand why so many people are in support of something that’s no different from burning villagers at stake to make the crops grow better

  50. Keith (the first one)

    I always tell people my star sign is Ophiuchus. Confuses the hell out of them, but it’s just as “right” as Saggitarius. I also sometimes use it as an excuse to not read the horoscopes in newspapers.

  51. Ray

    @ hello,

    To be fair, if you spread their ashes over the fields its good fertilizer. :)

  52. MoonShark

    I wanted to know if astrology can predict the future or in any way foretell human moods or events.

    So I asked a Magic 8-Ball.

    The answer it kept giving me was “Reply hazy, try again”.

    Well there’s nothing particularly magical about a toy 8-ball anyway. I figured I should try something a more high-tech, so I asked HAL 9000. His answer was, predictably, “I’m afraid I can’t do that”.

    Fearing that HAL had deeply-rooted flaws due to his programming and limited database, I sought a knowledge source without such bounds. I asked the mighty Multivac.

    Upon its teletype were printed five words:
    “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER”.

    The lesson for astrologers? Quit the bull and go read some sci-fi. It’s far more entertaining and thought-provoking. And the fiction of great authors has inspired countless scientists and engineers to explore our universe. That’s far more than can be said for cheesy horoscope woo, which despite claiming a fascination with the stars, is limited to a bland and provincial scope.

  53. mike burkhart

    I think I have Astrology debuniking burnout. I have made every argument I can think of . However for thoese who are fans of horror movies watch the orginal “Texeas Chainsaw massacare” one of the hippes in the van is in to Astorlogy and her horoscope says some thing bad may happen but it dos’ent tell her..(warning this is going to get graphic ,If Phil removes it I won’t complain) that she will : go into a house looking for her boyfriend (whos been killed) , chased and grabed by leatherface , hung on a hook , and stufed into a freazer half dead . Strange that her horoscope did’nt warn her to stay away from a house full of insane manics .

  54. Michel

    However, don´t you love news like this?
    badpsychics.co.uk/thefraudfiles/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1252
    *snigger*

    And @49 hello:
    But that really works. Ash is a good fertiliser.

  55. hello

    @51, @54: lol, true

  56. @ Bill:

    Great idea! How can *I* join the STOOPID-NITS???

    First step, send ME a very large sum of money.

    Second step, bask in the glory of Truth™ revealed.

  57. JJ

    Someone should conduct a nonsensical study measuring the correlation of belief in horoscopes with intelligence and mental illness…

  58. LSandman24

    @ 2:
    I didn’t think Mercury (or Venus) for that matter could be in retrograde, as they orbit the Sun faster than we do; Only the superior planets could be in retrograde as their apparent motions in the sky reverse as we pass them in our orbit. Just one more thing that bugs me about astrology, I guess. My pet narwhal reminded me of this. :-D

  59. Leon

    @RMcbride: I think that was deliberate, and deliberately ironic–since astrologers still consider Pluto a planet.

  60. Damon

    So much for your live-and-let-live philosophy, eh Phil? It must be nice to be able to go back on your policies when it’s convenient.

    I prefer to indulge less popular fields of exploration due to my ingrained sense of adventure, rather than sitting around studying stale science, “easy” science as my friends call it. The fringe stuff is better because it is fascinating and also fulfilling. Fortunately, accepting guidance from the movement of the heavens does not contradict our work with hard science. Perhaps you should step aside and let us have our hobbies, instead of throwing a fit because they haven’t worked for you. Perhaps you are doing something wrong? (Hint hint.)

    Sadly, you haven’t disproven Astrology Phil. You’ve just provided a series of scientific anecdotes :]

  61. #59 Leon says

    So they do have one redeeming feature!

  62. Leon

    Back to your bridge, Damon.

    Unless, of course, you’ve got some actual evidence to back up your “guidance from the movement of the heavens”?

    Phil has shown very well what’s wrong with astrology: its starting premise, its methodology, and its refusal to change either when confronted with evidence it doesn’t like.

  63. isn’t gravity an inverse square kinda thing? I am pretty sure your delivery doctor or midwife had more gravitational effect on your body than any ‘heavenly’ object. Maybe it’s the photons the heavenly bodies emit. Or the price of tea in China. or….

  64. JJ

    @Damon #60 – I’ve re-read your post 3 times now, hoping the satire will jump out at me eventually. So far, no such luck.

  65. ND

    I don’t think astrology even falls under fringe science. Astrology is not even pseudoscience.

    ” stale science, “easy” science ”

    What sort of scientific background do you or your friends have? What sort of fringe science as you call it are you in to?

  66. jcm

    “Oddly, astrologers tend to flip out when you mention that to them (and they really freak when you go into details, as I did in that link above). They claim you don’t understand astrology, you’re in denial, and that besides, their flavor of astrology is The One True Flavor. Of course, when you ask for actual specifics, they lapse into goobledygook, spin, and anecdotes.”

    In science such things have no place and are meaningless. Besides astrology does not follow the scientific method. If astrology worked, I would be (filthy) rich by now.

  67. “Guidance from the movement of the heavens….” what a bunch of new age drivel. I don’t know what policies #60 is talking about, but the inclusion of skepticism is one of the reasons I read Phil’s blog.

    This particular post has found its way to the social network called tribe dot net. One of their groups (called tribes) is called “Astrology is Stupid.” Here is the statement of purpose for that tribe:

    “Let’s not mince words: Astrology is stupid. Astrology is invalid and obsolete—a completely fictional belief system which is predicated on people’s gullibility and superstitious tendencies. Astrology is noting more than an emotional panacea that is antithetical to active inquiry. There is simply no way the position of the Sun, Moon, and planets at the moment we are born somehow affects or determines our personalities, and the way our lives unfold.
    Astrology is pseudoscience based on antiquated ideas. Scientific research clearly and continually confirms that astrology is a pseudoscientific pursuit amounting to little more than wishful thinking. There has been no scientifically valid evidence to back up astrological beliefs. Furthermore, (and perhaps most importantly) not a single astrologer has contributed anything of cognitive value to any field of the social sciences.”

    And the link: http://stupidastrology.tribe.net/?_click_path=Application%5Btribe%5D.Tribe%5Bf7c8891d-6834-4095-917a-686386e149d5%5D#

    Keep up the great work, Phil. The fact that astrologers do not approve is alone proof that you are doing a good job.

  68. Kash

    66 comments and not a single joke about astrologers heads in conjunction with Uranus.

    I’m really disappointed with you people.

    DAmon;
    “I prefer to indulge less popular fields of exploration due to my ingrained sense of adventure”
    Is that what you call it? We just thought it was called stupidity and gullibility, not “adventure”.

    Damon says;
    ““easy” science as my friends call it”
    What’s easy about it? If it’s so easy, why don’t your astrologer friends get their basic facts right? How about they do something besides bilk the gullible, like you? I suppose science is easy, compared to fraud and manipulation? It’s easier on the morals at least.

    The fringe stuff is fascinating? I guess that’s why we’re shooting holes in by the minute. It’s fulfilling? How so? Duping other makes you feel more content with your inability to recognize fact from fancy? I’m not sure if that makes you shallow or stupid. Take your pick.

  69. Zucchi

    @58: Sure, Mercury and Venus can be “in retrograde” (i.e., showing apparent retrograde motion). Phil could explain it better than I can. (Then we can ask an astrologer to explain how this optical illusion somehow has an effect on human lives.)

  70. #63 Gene:
    Correct. It’s pretty easy to prove, with a little basic maths, that at the moment of a baby’s birth, the gravitational influence of the doctor and midwife, and the machinery in the room, is at least an order of magnitude greater than even the maximum possible for any of the planets.
    I’ve done it myself with rough figures – but quite recently, Phil posted a link to an excellent article, where someone had done the calculations accurately. Care to remind us of the link, please, Phil?

  71. The problem with astrology is that they fail to take into account exo-planets, and their influences in our lives.

  72. LSandman24

    @68: Thanks Zucchi. I will school the narwhal. :-D

  73. cmflyer

    @21 Shane:

    Did she send it to the Pre-Crime Division?

  74. Here’s your tidbit of silliness for the day:

    *cough* Straw Man *cough*

    Seriously: Terry Nazon (or any other astrologer) being a wing-nut doesn’t disprove astrology any more than Piltdown Man disproves evolution, or Bernie Madoff disproves free-market economics.

    Just once… ONCE… I’d like to see an honest, open, public debate between a skeptic and an astrologer who actually knows what they’re talking about. You’ve got my e-mail now if you’re up to it. Otherwise… keep having fun with the generalizations.

  75. davem

    Biggest problem I’m having is that someone called ‘Terry’ is a woman… Must be a UK thing.

  76. @74, Belief in astrology is what makes Terry Nazon a wing-nut so it is not a strawman. I am all in favor of debates, but astrologers are at a disadvantage by their very nature. The evidence is so clear that debating them is like debating the Flat Earth Society. Yes it is THAT certain that astrology is false. I would actually feel a little sorry for any astrologer you could name debating Phil or any other well prepared skeptic.

  77. Left_Wing_Fox

    an astrologer who actually knows what they’re talking about

    You might as well ask for an honest argument between an atheist and a deity.

  78. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    So sum up astrology for us here. What’s wrong with Nazon according to you?

    Edit: according to your website Mars is in Virgo. According to Stellarium (a really cool planetarium program), Mars appears right at the feet of Leo at the moment. So what does it mean when you say Mars is in Virgo? It does not appear to match what’s in the sky currently. What do you use to figure out where the planets are in relation to the zodiac?

  79. DaveH

    @74,

    An astrologer who knows what they are talking about knows they are talking crap.

  80. dennymack

    The principles of astrology are much more difficult to understand than those of orbital mechanics. Newton gave us the Principae by a reductive process; he left out all of the variables he could not account for, and called the dry stale bits he was left with “physics.” One should not be surprised that these Supreme and Universal rules need constant amendment. Doesn’t that tell you something about your god, that he must continually be revised, and yet always held to be universal and without rival? This fear of the open ended, this yearning for linearity that has its ultimate expression in the binary language of machines, has its root in the exclusionary and eliminationist monotheism of Western Culture.
    Don’t be surprised if someone who can push some numbers through one of Kepler’s equations fails to understand the complex relationships between the complete human being and the Universe.

    Man, I should sell this stuff myself! It seems so airy-fairey and nebulous, but then you realize, that is what the wanna-believer is looking for, an explanation that supports illogical conclusions that is based on ideas that are so “advanced” that only the chosen can attain understanding. And of course, they get membership in the chosen just by turning off the frontal lobe, which was the original goal.

    Jeez, astrologers, was that so hard? I don’t even believe this drivel, and yet I can make it sound better than the true believers.

  81. Chris

    Damon-
    The burden is not upon science to completely disprove your astrology. We do that as a courtesy. The burden is upon astrologers to provide evidence that they are right.

  82. @ND:

    1) Sum up astrology for you… and the numerous problems I’ve seen with pretty much every argument against astrology I’ve seen… in a comment on a blog? Reminds me a little of “Summarize Proust” from Monty Python. I have no problem with saying that “Astrology is the study of of how observable motions of the planets in our solar system correlate (via as-yet-unknown means with events in people’s lives, based on those people’s date, place and time of birth.”

    I could also summarize “Gone With The Wind” by saying “Woman makes bad decisions about her love life, loses Rhett Butler in the end,” but that would hardly qualify as a book report.

    2) There is a difference between the actual constellation “Leo” and the sign “Leo,” just as there is a difference between “The Sign of Taurus” and “The Ford Taurus.” This is one of the most common complaints about astrology from skeptics: you know, the one where “If I was born March 1st, why am I “a Pisces” when the Sun actually appears in the region of the constellation Aquarius. Long story short: the “signs” did line up with the “constellations” about 2000 years ago, but that’s precession for ya…

    Mostly, though, I’d like to thank you ND. It seems to me that asking questions and seeking answers about something you may not believe in is a much more scientific approach than saying something like “An astrologer who knows what they are talking about knows they are talking crap.”

    @DaveH: Ahem.

    @Maxwell Smart: Got contact information for Phil, or any other well prepared skeptic? ‘Cause that’s EXACTLY what I’m looking for.

  83. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    Can you at least tell us what’s wrong with Nazon from your point of view on astrology.

    So far you have not given us any reason to take you more seriously than Nazon after asserting that you are a serious astrologer who knows what he’s talking about. And please spare use the backhanded complements.

    What differentiates you from Nazon?

  84. Thanks for the mention of the “Astrology Is Stupid” tribe:
    http://stupidastrology.tribe.net/

    There is also an “Astrology Is Stupid” facebook group:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Astrology-is-Stupid/45800052063

  85. ND

    “Long story short: the “signs” did line up with the “constellations” about 2000 years ago, but that’s precession for ya…”

    So what in your best understanding is an astrological “sign”. There appears to be a relationship with the constellations since they’re named after them and do “sync up” at some point in time. Have you tried syncing them to today’s positions and see if you get different results?

  86. George Martin

    ND @85

    Have you tried syncing them to today’s positions and see if you get different results?

    Isn’t that something that the astrologers should do? It’s their belief system about what the zodiacal constellations mean.

    I think that someone has pointed out that these days the Sun also passes through Ophiuchus. That would make thirteen zodiacal constellations. There are also almost thirteen lunations in a solar year. Hmm….

    George

  87. dennymack

    Mathew Currie,
    Thanks for having the patience to debate skeptics on a science oriented blog. While I don’t share your belief, at least you have the intellectual courage to confront, defend and debate. Anyone who values truth has to value that.

    I was born in the same room at the same time as a boyhood friend. We went to the same schools for eight years. I cannot find much correlation in what happened to us, or how we felt, or our luck, on any given day. Our personalities are about as different as could be. Our interests do not coincide. We have followed very different paths through life, other than the coincidence of geography that put us in the same school.

    If astrological influences are large enough to not only detect, but large enough to matter to the individual, and large enough to provide guidance, how can there be so little that applies to both of us?

    Perhaps we need to be “attuned to the influence of the stars,” or in psychological terms, open to the power of suggestion and loaded up with confirmation bias.

    How does one weigh correlating and contradicting evidence in judging the validity of astrology? Is there a standard by which well schooled astrologists calibrate their guidance? After all, the cycles of heaven do not simply repeat; is there a way to check for the interaction of various non-synchronized cycles and new influences that were not known thousands of years ago when the charts were made? (I’m thinking of supernovas, comets, and the odd near-miss asteroid.)

    Cheers,
    Dennymack

  88. George Martin

    In my post at 86, I may have messed up attribution wise. I think that ND was replying to Mathew Currie. But yes astrologers should attempt to falsify their belief system.

    George

  89. John Sandlin

    It seems to me that if the zodiac doesn’t line up with the original stars, then the influences that may have or have not existed at those times of year cannot possibly still line up with the dates as they were 2000 years ago. If the movement of the planets affect our lives, why not the precession of the stars (well, technically, the precession of our planet and orbit)? Why isn’t that properly taken into account with the passing of time? Why does every decent study ever done on Astrology all agree that Astrology is bunk?

    Personally, the answer seems obvious: Astrology IS bunk.

    jbs

  90. 24601

    Is #60 Damon an example of Poe’s Law?

  91. ND

    24601,

    It’s hard to tell.

  92. DaveH

    It seems to me that asking questions and seeking answers about something you may not believe in is a much more scientific approach than saying something like “An astrologer who knows what they are talking about knows they are talking crap.”

    It’s not a scientific approach, it’s a factual statement.

  93. Slugbat

    The last time I was in a group and the subject of astrology came up, I asked the nonsense-instigator to guess my sign. Having known me for years, it should have been easy. Yep, she got to all eleven other signs before the one corresponding to my birthdate. I wasn’t expecting that, and I felt like a meanie for embarrassing her. Oh, well.

    I think on some level people know this is bogus, but they just like to play the game.

  94. ND

    “Astrology is the study of of how observable motions of the planets in our solar system correlate (via as-yet-unknown means with events in people’s lives, based on those people’s date, place and time of birth.”

    Where is the evidence in support of this?

  95. puppygod

    So… How astrology explains that twins can have very divergent lives despite having identical date, place and time of birth? Or, if couple of minutes difference is so important, how can any accurate horoscope be made for anybody without precise-to-tenth-of-seconds date of birth?

  96. Eli

    Many of my friends actually believe in astrology and are reding daily astrology papers.Sometimes I am arguing with them,sometimes I am laughing at them.But to claim that 500 million people have the same character,the same things willl happen to them at the same day and all are influenced by the exact position of planets and stars that don’t have any physical influence on our planet …”Facepalm”

  97. #74 and #82 Matthew Currie:
    “…an astrologer who actually knows what he’s talking about”. Such a person doesn’t exist, by definition.

    “Got contact information for Phil?” Well, I guess that about sums up your powers of investigation, if you can’t find Phil’s e-mail address, which is quite clearly stated at the top of this very page. Duhhh!!!

    Please do go ahead with your idea; a debate between Phil and an astrologer would be most entertaining…

  98. While we wait to see if any astrologer has the guts to take part in a debate maybe someone could post some actual evidence for astrology. The burden of proof is on advocates of astrology. If you claim it is a science then it is not unreasonable to demand some evidence. If you were really honest you would label it as a religion and acknowledge that it is merely faith based. I would also suggest that other astrologers should tell Terry Nazon that threats are not acceptable and that skeptics are entitled to debuk astrology as we see fit.

  99. Zack

    The craziest part of her “Tele Consults” isn’t that they cost $4.99/min. It’s that after 50 minutes, her rate doesn’t drop. It goes up.

    50 min cost $249.50.
    60 min cost $329.45.
    She marks up the last ten minutes to EIGHT DOLLARS per??

  100. Zack

    Did I say “the craziest part”? From Nazon’s Mayan Prophecy of 2012 page:

    “[Infinity] is a continuum of time. Since there is no end on the other side of zero… it is where everything happens, but didn’t. Our Galactic center at 27* Sagittarius is a black Hole…Is this where we find infinity? During the Solstices the Galactic Center bathes us in energy. Real particle energy! Protons and Neutrons the DNA material that sustains life on Earth.”

    [Brain explodes.]

    Her extended Tele Consult bill is likelier place to find infinity.

  101. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    What is the format of the debate you want to have with any skeptic? Why not have it here on this blog? This blog is open to the public.

  102. “As Nibiru approaches in 2012 more Earth changes will take place. NASA, the New World Order and the Illuminati will conspire with grey space aliens to deny the existence of Planet X, but we assended masters and shamans can stop this by rubbing our crystals and burning sage. If we the enlightened ones focus our intent and vibrations we will change our DNA, become light beings and usher in a new age free of science and other dark influences.”

    I just made that up off the top of my head, but it is what passes as received wisdom on numerous woo woo websites.

  103. ND

    Maxwell Smart,

    Isn’t that mostly lifted from the X-Files show?

  104. Josie

    I want to hear about the effect of Vulcan on people’s lives from an astrologer who ‘knows his stuff’

  105. 83. @ND First of all, terrible form on Nazon’s part with her responses. I’m not a fan of using rudeness to defend falsehood. And (on that subject) that wasn’t a backhanded compliment. Seriously: if one calm intelligent conversation could clear this up once and for all, you and I would likely both be satisfied. Or not. At least an actual conversation would have taken place. I’m hoping for more light and less heat, personally.

    As for a reason to take me more seriously than anyone else, I’m not sure what criteria you’d go by. Like you, I’m just someone on the Internet saying things… so use your own judgement, as we all do (hopefully).

    I can summarize the differences between myself and Nazon (Based on what I’m reading… I don’t know her) by saying that she seems to me like one of the more hand-wavy astrologers out there as far as her pronouncements. When I work, it’s a lot less “spiritual” (“Karma around material resources will be restrictive during the next lunation”) and more practical, for lack of a better term (“Looks like you’re gonna be broke next month.”).

    Other than that, the trouble seems to break down to a misunderstanding over the “Zodiac” (the constellations) and the “Zodiac” (the 12 part division of the sky that astrology uses). And that whole 2012 apocalyptic thing?

    Yeesh.

    http://matthewastrology.blogspot.com/2009/03/it-bears-repeating-world-will-not-end.html

    (The above link is everyone’s chance to see whether or not I have a reasonable grasp of the science involved, if anyone is interested)

    83. As for the difference between the “Zodiac” and the “Zodiac,” that would take a LOT of typing. Thankfully, someone else has already done that:

    http://astro-calendar.com/shtml/Research/tropsidzodiacs.shtml

    You probably won’t like the spiritual-sounding stuff, but the technical parts sum it up.

    85 & 86: @George Martin I’m not sure many other astrologers have done this… buit I have.

    87. @dennymack Thank you! First, a quote from my blog: “If a nurse was in the room making a sandwich while you were being born, and finished it the moment you came out… you and that sandwich would have the same birth chart. But, hopefully, different futures.”

    You and your boyhood friend are obviously different people, and if nothing else, sensitivy to initial conditions dictates that even if you were clones, you’d have different lives. But if you wrote out a list of, say, 20 major life events and your friend did the same, you would see a very-hard-to-deny parallel in terms of the nature of the events and their timing. Or, that’s the effect astrologers see.

    Also: I’ve always thought it was a mistake to speak of “the influence of the stars” as if the physical Universe is constantly bombarding us with Invisible Karma Rays or something. There’s a *parallel* certainly, but as for the mechanism? Beats me. A lot of time and thought and money have been poured into the whole Dark Matter vs. MOND debate and I haven’t seen a conclusive answer yet. As long as an honest search for an answer (whether one or the other, or none of the above) continues? I can live with it.

    92. @DaveH Yea, let the be a mighty Picking Of The Nits.

    93. @Slugbat. I hear you, and if the “Sun Sign” was that big a factor in astrology, you’d be right. As it stands though, it’s a little like an ethnographer correctly guessing the ethnicity of your parents by looking at your facial features… there’s a good chance he’ll be somewhat rigvht, but if your personal genetic makeup means you got your great-granfather’s Japanese cheekbones but none of his coloring, it would throw him off. Hope that answer made sense.

    94. @ND There is, but it’s lot of typing for the forum here. Give me some time to ponder this a little more. There are places around the Internet that list the evidence… but no obvious links come immediately to mind, and I still have a busy day ahead of me. :)

    96, meet 87. 87, 96.

    98 @Neil Haggath: Done. Didn’t know which skeptic Phil you referred to. There’s more than one, you know.

    99 @Maxwell Smart: I got yer guts, right here. Besides, it would save me a LOT of typing. :)

    100 & 101 @Zack Agreed!

    103 @Maxwell Smart read the link I posted under “Yeesh.” You and I may agree more than you think.

    105 @Josie Oh, come on… everyone here KNOWS that “Vulcan” was destroyed by a Romulan mining vessel in the last movie. Nice try though. ;)

  106. Parts could have been in some X Files plots, but much of it is stuff i read on 2012 blogs and forums. One of them is called “2012 Unsensored” over at tribe dot net. Another trend among the woo woo crowd is to incorporate concepts from Hollywood into their delusional view of the world. It is quite common for them to think that we live in an artifical “Matrix” where “they” change reality to conform to the needs of the NWO (new world order) In recent months there are refences to the movie Avatar and the belief that the movie is preparing us for the revelation of ETs.

    I even saw one argument break out about 2012. A Raelian follower disputes 2012 predictions because according to the Raelians the Elohim are to arrive in 2025 and the Mayan predictions are heresy. This same person rejects evolution because his take on Intelligent Design is that humanns were designed in a labratory by the Elohim.

    You know.. I feel a little crazy just describing some of this stuff.

  107. ND

    *sigh*

    What causes people to believe in stuff like this? Do they have mental issues or just and average person who can’t ask questions or follow logic.

  108. Ray

    @ Matthew Currie

    OK, here’s your chance. I was born in Savanna, Illinois on 27 Nov 1963 at 9:43 AM.

    Show everyone how good your astrology is.

  109. 109 @Ray Thanks, but if one successful (or unsuccessful) demonstration could reasonably resolve the matter… it would have been resolved a couple of thousand years ago. Besides, it’s like asking a plumber to prove his plumbing skills by fixing your toilet for free. I’ve got a lot of paying customers with wet floors today…

    Seriously though: I wouldn’t object to some form of test, but that seems a bit long and complex for the comments section on a blog entry to me…

  110. Ray

    Yep, expected just that response. Thanks for confirming the woo.

  111. 111 @Ray So, what would make you happy then, and spare me spending all day responding to everyone? Seriously: “having a life” doesn’t mean one is avoiding anything. Gravity didn’t take the day off when Newton was busy with housework.

  112. Keith (the first one)

    Matthew. A plumber would be able to explain how he would fix your toilet. You can’t explain anything about your “prefession”, oh , unless someone pays you.

  113. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    So what is the benefit of the public debate you want to have over discussion on this blog? What can you prove more there than here.

  114. At least a plumber is making an honest dollar. Astrologers don’t present evidence because they do not have any. It all comes down to their ability to to make money from gullible people and skeptics can actually convince people not waste their money on some worthless horoscope that is no better than a guess.

  115. 111 @Ray So, what would make you happy then, and spare me spending all day responding to everyone? Seriously: “having a life” doesn’t mean one is avoiding anything. Gravity didn’t take the day off when Newton was busy with housework.

    113. @Keith, I’d gladly do it for free. That same plumber would have a tough time though describing his job to an audience in the format of a running debate in the comments section of a blog.

    I don’t like sloppy thinking from an astrologer, a skeptic, or anyone else. And frankly, what I’ve seen of the skeptics responses to astrology reflects… sorry folks… an inherent lack of understanding as to what astrology actually is or what it does. Personally, I like to dismiss crap only after I’ve understood it, and can thus *properly* label it “crap.”

    114 @ND Plenty. Believe it or not, I’m actually an intelligent, thoughtful person just like you and (I hope) everyone else here. Yet clearly we’ve reached very different conclusions, and either the astrologers are deluded and/or ripping people off, or the skeptics are being close-minded to even examining the evidence… thus crossing the line from reason to Dogma. I think that sort of thing deserves a wider, more detailed examination. That, and it would help avoid the whole “I’m rubber/you’re glue” effect that (as you may have noticed) often breaks out when astrologers and skeptics try to bash each other, rather than listen and learn.

    115 @Maxwell Smart According to my research, I’m rubber and you’re… oh, never mind…

  116. Keith (the first one)

    I’d imagine any plumber worth his salt could descibe his job on this blog. Further, even a complex feild such as astronomy, can be explained very well in blog form, as Phil does very well every day here.

    Astrology has nothing. No mechanism, cause or effect. It is just confirmation bias and superstition.

  117. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    So far you’re all talk. Where’s the evidence pointing to a genuine astrological phenomenon?

  118. @116. According to my research you and all astrologers are conartists and I will declare that my intent in debunking astrology is to impair your ablilty to do business. So sue me.

  119. 117 @Keith does not knowing the mechanism mean something isn’t real, or doesn’t work, just because the mechanism is unknown? Willow bark tea used to help cure pain long before anyone knew what the heck a “molecule” is, or how some of them can block pain receptors.

    I can describe my job easily enough:

    http://matthewastrology.blogspot.com/2007/03/what-i-do-and-what-i-dont-do.html

    But I don’t think you’re asking “what I do” so much as you don’t believe what I do has any validity.” That’s two very different things.

    118. I can find you plenty, but in all honesty, let me ask you: is there not a better place or way to do this? I feel like I walked into the room asking where the Front Lines are, and a gunfight broke out on the spot… if that metaphor isn’t too tortured…

    119. Oh, Maxwell… I’m trying to not reduce this to the level of a priest and a rabbi debating who’s going to hell and who isn’t. I’m looking for reasoned debate without too many presumptions… or at least, presumptions that can’t be questioned.

    121 I’m not backing off. I’m actively asking YOU what format/criteria would satisfy you.

  120. Ray

    Matthew exhibits the same characteristics as every other woo artist I’ve ever encountered. He talks a big game about testing and debating but then backs off when someone says “do it”. Always has an excuse.

    Color me surprised.

  121. Mr. Currie keeps proving the point that astrologers lack proof. They talk big and say they want a debate, but fail to provide even a scintilla of evidence to back their dellusional belief system. I think skeptics are being good consumer advocates by convincing people not to throw their money away on garbage like horoscopes.

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordianry proof.”
    Carl Sagan

    Give us just one link, one study that backs up astrology, Mr.Currie.

  122. 122. @Martha Actually, I haven’t presented proof of ANYTHING yet. I’m here asking what would satisfy you guys, and can anyone suggest a larger, more formal format than simply shouting back and forth in the comments section of a blog. Come on, folks… I enjoy seeing an idiot being hoist on his own petard as much as you do. Tell me where I can do this in the biggest, most embarrassing way possible. :)

    As for proof, in terms of a controlled study… there’s little out there. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. As for what proof there is… I assume many of you are familiar with THIS mess…

    http://www.psicounsel.com/starbaby.html

    …which tends to illustrate, I think, the way these things tend to break down into name-calling. It didn’t exactly prove astrology, but it certainly illustrates the unreasonable lengths some are willing to go to in order to avoid finding Truths that conflict with their worldview…

  123. Gary Ansorge

    It appears to me that astrologers, psychics, etc are confusing correlation with causation. Just because there are patterns to the movements of planets and patterns in life doesn’t mean one causes the other.

    But the human brain keeps looking for patterns regardless of cause and effect.

    Me ex-wife was scary in her ability to correlate natal birth charts with major life events in the people she knew. This had nothing to do with the sun and everything to do with her sensitivity to people, their hopes, dreams, personalities, education and personal prejudices.

    Carl Jung postulated synchronicity, ie, things that happen at the same time but are not causally connected. Perhaps astrologers are merely erroneously deducing causal relationships from synchronicity. All it takes is for them to accidently be correct one time and the natural human tendency is to then assume this will always work out right. Like assuming that because the coin came up tails it must of necessity next come up heads.

    Stringing words together because they sound impressive w/o actually understanding what they mean in that particular context is something my computer can do. I expect the same cognitive limitation applies to most humans.

    Gary 7

  124. Eric K.

    I object to the claim in your linked essay that “astrology has as much legitimacy as ‘Blondie and Dagwood’ “. It is clear you have not taken the time to read or understand the material you so lightly dismiss.

    Blondie and Dagwood can teach us valuable lessons about dealing with angry bosses, husbands who nap on the couch too much, and making gigantic sandwiches in the middle of the night.

    Astrology can make no such claims.

  125. 124 @Martha Let’s see how the little darling grows up. :)

    125 @Gary I hear you. BUT… a correlation isn’t always false or imagined, is it? And, your ex-wife… did she only read charts of people she knew, that you know of?

  126. Keith (the first one)

    Actually Matthew, it’s mechanism, cause and effect in conjuction that is lacking. Even in your willow bark example, the cause and effect was known. i.e. willow bark cures pain. Astrology does not even have that.

    What I am asking is not what your job is, but how* it works. Something that a plumber or an astronomer could easier answer, but no astrologer has ever been able to answer without resorting to nonsense. The fact that astrology hasn’t even updated its Zodiac is proof enough that it is bogus, because without the corresponding constellations, the Zodiac has no physical meaning. It just becomes an arbitrary division of the night sky.

    *To clarify. I want to know how your predictions are made and how you can tell if they’re right or not. I’m not too concerned right now about why these things work.

  127. 128 @Keith Okay, but if the Willow Bark mechanism were expressed in terms of “it drives out evil pain spirits” it would undoubtedly be mocked by a lot of the people here. Technically, those people may be right, but they’d be overlooking a valid… something-or-other.

    Here’s your simple answer, then. It misses a lot of detail, just as a similarly brief job description from a plumber would miss a lot of detail.

    “Astrology posits that the placement of the planets, relative to Earth, at the time of a person’s birth has a correlation to various factors in their life, and that comparing those positions to upcoming or current planetary positions can determine the nature of upcoming or current events in a person’s life.”

    As for the Zodiac thing, I think you missed the discussion earlier about the difference between the astrological and astronomical “Zodiacs”, and where that came from.

    Also… how can I tell it works? Warm up the “Observer Bias” chorus, but… people tell me that the things I predicted came true, and they came back for more, and no I wasn’t vague about the things I predicted. That’s how *I* know it works. Now, before you start on me with “No valid scientific study shows…”, it’s my contention that:

    1) There never really HAS been a proper, large, valid study of it. As I’ve commented above, any study claiming to disprove astrology’s validity don’t really have that much to do with actual astrology.
    2) It persists, whereas throwing virgins into volcanoes to make the earthquakes stop, phrenology, and other forms of nuttiness do not.
    3) Why?

  128. Keith (the first one)

    OK Matt.

    “Astrology posits that the placement of the planets, relative to Earth, at the time of a person’s birth has a correlation to various factors in their life, and that comparing those positions to upcoming or current planetary positions can determine the nature of upcoming or current events in a person’s life.”

    That says nothing about how you know arrive at a prediction or whether you know if it’s valid or not. And I mean knowing if it’s right or not BEFORE you give the client his prediction.

    As for the Zodiac thing, no astrologer has ever been able to give a coherent answer. Basically, if they haven’t moved with the stars, they cannot be related to the starts. What are they?

    1) You are ignoring the countless studies that show it doesn’t work and can’t work.
    2)Belief in all sorts of nonsense persists.
    3)Put simple, gullible people will believe nonsense.

  129. Gotcha. Like I said, that description skips a lot of detail. But that’s how it works, simply put. Or (if you prefer) appears to work. How I arrive at a prediction is complex to describe here, much as a doctor would have a hard time detailing how he arrives at a (usually correct) diagnosis without a LOT more typing and spare time than most doctors have. But he could, and so could I. My point here is that I’m not actually looking to do that HERE. Keep reading…

    And sorry: are you asking how I know I’m right about a prediction before it comes true?

    1) “Countless”? I can count six that I know of, all of which were based on (as I’ve related here in previous comments) an inherently flawed understanding of astrology. Certainly, though, those studies have seemed to demonstrate that people tend to choose different personality descriptions than others might use for them. The closest I’ve seen to a proper study was the whole “Mars Effect”/sTARBABY debacle… see my previous comments.
    2) Of course. Sometimes though, nonsense isn’t nonsense. Urinating on an open wound to sterilize it is pure nonsense, right?
    3) Yes, gullible people believe nonsense. They also believe their microwave will warm up their leftovers. That doesn’t mean the’re hallucinating when they say the soup is hot.

    And actually, an astrologer DID give a coherent answer to that Zodiac thing, on this page, back in comment 106. This tends to back my contention that the comments section of a blog is no place for a proper debate. So again… anyone have any ideas for a better venue? Any takers?

  130. Keith (the first one)

    I’m sorry. You’ve got me because you can’t answer my question?

    Come on then. I have all night. All I want to know is how you check your own work, and ensure that is gives the same result as any other astrologer working with the same data would give.

    1)6? Maybe you should do more research then.
    2)Urinating on an open wound isn’t nonsense. We know it sterilises the wound. How about that the Earth was created 6000 years ago? That’s nonsense that a lot of people believe.
    3)Why do people believe a microwave oven will heat up their food? Because it works every time and with repeatable results. Something astrology has never done.
    If that’s the best you’ve got I think you need to look up nonsense in the dictionary. I don’t think you know what it means.

    As for the Zodiac thing. YOU gave a BS answer. Basically, you use some arbitrary angles for the zodiac which have no physical meaning today. If the frame of reference is the Earth as that says, then the time of day would be significant, and the day of the year would barely be relevant.

  131. Ray

    Matthew said:

    “122. @Martha Actually, I haven’t presented proof of ANYTHING yet. I’m here asking what would satisfy you guys”

    Yes, you haven’t presented proof of any kind, except proof that woo artists continually obfuscate, deny, make excuses and move the goalposts. You HAVE done that, albeit not awfully well.

    I have posted what would satisfy. I gave you the time, date, and place of my birth (#109). Show me astrology works.

  132. Sorry, that’s “gotcha” as in, “I hear you.”

    I think your presumption of what I meant by that kind of backs my contention that those who see astrology working… and those who see it as nonsense… are doomed to fling crap at each other unless some kind of a reasonable format comes up where it can be discussed. Reasonably. I’m not stupid, I believe in the validity of what I’m saying, and I don’t need to call names or resort to circular logic to back that up. It would be nice to find someone who legitimately disagrees with me, but is actually willing to listen to what I’m saying before they dismiss it. That sort of thing is harder to find than you might think, by the way.

    Then again, someone intelligent and calm who knows what they’re talking about could be disagreeing with you right now, and you wouldn’t hear it over the chorus of “gullible” and “BS” and such.

    Just sayin’.

    1) Okay, can you post a link to some more of these studies I’ve missed?

    2) True. And true. But urinating on a wound certainly SOUNDS like nonsense to a lot of people who aren’t aware that it actually CAN sterilize a wound. Ask a few people on the street what they think of the advisability of urinating on a wound. So, a lot of people believe a lot of nonsense, but a lot of people also think things are nonsense that are NOT nonsense.

    3) My point was is that gullible people may believe a lot of things they shouldn’t, but you seem to be assuming that gullible people believe astrology because they are gullible, and that they are gullible because they believe in astrology.

    Also, about the Zodiacs: it’s not arbitrary. Astrologers use it because it works (or if you insist, “appears to work”). And time of day is VERY significant… any astrologer would tell you that.

    Again, it seems I’m defending astrology against someone attacking what they THINK astrology is. Which leads back to my original point… can anyone point out a better forum to have this discussion in?

    And sorry… which question of yours didn’t I answer?

    And, @Ray… even if I did satisfy your criteria, and you believed me, do you honestly believe many others here (or elsewhere) would be convinced by a representative sample of one?

  133. Ray

    I’m done with you Matthew. Its obvious you’re just playing out the tactics in the woo handbook. Its boring. You could at least try some fresher tactics to keep my attention.

  134. Keith (the first one)

    Sorry Matthew, I took the gotcha the wrong way.

    Yes, arguing this is futile. Why? Because astrology is nonsense and it’s believers will never give that up. That includes you apparently.

    Astrology cannot possibly work, and it doesn’t. It doesn’t even appear to work to anyone approaching it with an open mind. Maybe if you open your mind, you’ll realise how many wonder’s the real universe has to offer.

  135. Krypt

    Matthew, I think that if you used astrology to make a specific prediction of a future event that you could have no way of predicting through conventional means, and if that prediction could be verified to be accurate in all respects, that would be a good starting point toward convincing skeptics that astrology works. If you can manage that, then we can go from there.

    Ray gave you a specific date, time and location of his birth in comment #109. Can you make a specific prediction of something that will happen in his life within the next 24 hours, then he can report back on the accuracy of your prediction? Remember, specificity is very important. Vague predictions that you see in a lot of horoscopes along the lines of “An unexpected encounter with an acquaintance will happen soon” aren’t good enough.

    Are you up for giving that a try?

  136. Keith, you had me until “Because…” :)

    Okay, so: I say it does work, and it can be demonstrated that it works, and a lot of people think so… whether you or I or anyone else agrees with them. So… humor me here… I want to present my best evidence in the best venue possible, so we can move towards either a more open dialog on it, or dismiss it as dangerous nonsense.

    So what would anyone here recommend as a venue?

  137. Krypt

    I think it would be fine if you just posted your prediction here in these comments. You shouldn’t need more than a few sentences to make a specific prediction, right? You can post it, we’ll make note of the details and then verify it when the specific timeframe you hopefully give us in the prediction passes.

    Let’s start small and then we can work up from there.

  138. ND

    Matthew,

    I was wondering when the happy customer argument was gonna come up:
    “Also… how can I tell it works? Warm up the “Observer Bias” chorus, but… people tell me that the things I predicted came true, and they came back for more, and no I wasn’t vague about the things I predicted. That’s how *I* know it works. Now, before you start on me with “No valid scientific study shows…”, it’s my contention that:”

    This proves nothing. It’s easy to fool people, heck even scientists can be foold.

    Something important to consider from a scientific perspective (something so far you have not objected to): there is valid a concern that your customers are self-selecting, as in those who are more likely to believe in astrology and take what you say uncritically and thus believe your projections hold true.

  139. ND

    Matthew,

    You’re the one who came to this blog challenging skeptics to some sort of public debate and yet you’re asking everyone else to come up with the format. And this is after you were asked first about what sort of format you’d like for the debate. If you insist on a debate, then you propose the format. Again, this appears to be all talk from you.

  140. Plutonian

    @47. RMcbride Says:

    Second, Hate to quibble Phil but in the document in that first link you name Pluto a planet.

    Pluto is, indeed, a planet.

    Just because the IAU have – temporarily I hope – lost their marbles and tried to decree by uscientific and illogical fiat that Pluto isn’t a planet doesn’t mean most sane people won’t disagree with them.

    Pluto is round by its own gravity, it has three moons, it quite probably also has rings, definitely an atmosphere, weather & it gravitationally controls its local zone. Hence its trio of moons one quite large.

    It may not be a big planet but dwarf planets still count as proper planets just as dwarf stars (eg. our Sun) still count as proper stars – and if you put Earth or even Jupiter where Pluto is they’d also be part of the Edgeworth (Kuiper) belt and just as incapable of entirely clearing the region of comets and other objects too.

    I reckon by or shortly after the time NewHorizons visits Pluto in 2015 the ridiculous, absurd and utterly moronic Pluto-bashing “planet” definition by the appallingly anti-American IAU will have been revoked and that that decision will not just be seen as a temporary aberation but as a utter disgrace and an embarrassing low-point in the IAU’s history and a permanent stain on its reputation.

    Many astronomers completely reject the anti-Pluto decree – I am NOT alone in my perspective here. Just ask Alan Stern. ;-)

  141. Bruce Scofield

    It always seems to go nowhere. Some advice warriors – you may make more progress on this argument by first distinguishing between natural and judicial astrology. Every truly knowledgeable historian of science, i.e. Anthony Grafton, Lawrence Principe, knows this. Then, get away from judicial, which is what’s being argued here, and get onto the problems of natural astrology – how do astronomical bodies effect changes in climate and in the biosphere. Of course, they do – tides, solar cycles, orbital cycles, variations in cosmic ray flux, circadian and lunar rhythms in organisms – these are all part of science. This moves the discussion out of opinions about people to a discussion that can be based on peer-reviewed scientific papers.

    Now – debate the influence of the planets on the Sun. If research by people like Fairbridge, Sanders, Landscheidt and some more recent guys from Australia are right, then planetary configurations (aspects) around the Sun – the same ones that form the core of judicial astrology – are driving variations of solar output and probably the solar cycle. And do these same configurations also operate geocentrically? There is some evidence that they do so by forcing systems (weather, for example) across thresholds. In this sense, natural astrology can then be seen as a “mapping technique for dynamic systems.”

    It’s only a hop and skip from the climate system and the weather to the body and mind as dynamic systems operating in a constantly changing flux of eletro-magnetism – systems that may also be repsonsive to very tiny variations in this ambient. Not really studied or published very much so far, this stuff, but we’re getting there – despite the loud whining sounds of self-appointed father-complexed skeptics that are barely trained in the science they so fiercely defend.

  142. Plutonian

    Actually this is what notable Pluto expert & professional astronomer, Alan S. Stern, head of the New Horizons mission had to say . His concise summary of the IAU decision making process and its verdict was that it was :

    “… idiotic. I have nothing but ridicule for this decision.”

    (Source : P.28, ‘Astronomy Now’, October, 2006.)

    Alan Stern was one of many relevant and expert astronomers who were deliberately excluded from the 2006 Prague IAU anti-Pluto vote.

    It was bad enough that of the 10,000 IAU members only 2,500 attended that Prague meeting, it was worse still that of those 2,500 only 424 (mostly anti-Amercian anti-Pluto lobbyists) actually got to vote therefore making it a very unrepresentative, undemocratic and invalid decision. :-(

  143. DaveH

    @Bruce, #144

    I’m not sure what I’m most convinced by – your appeal to ye hiftory of natural philofophy, your appeal to Freud, your appeal to solar cycles, or your appeal to hopscotch.

  144. Gonzo

    http://www.imprint.co.uk/pdf/Dean.pdf

    some fine reading, a through scientific debunking of the nonsense that is astrology.

    Astrologers who take money for what they do are fraudsters and should be punished by our judicial system as such.

  145. Calli Arcale

    OT, but….

    Pluto is a thing that orbits the Sun. Anything else is semantics, and frankly, immaterial to Pluto itself.

  146. Paul - Astrology User

    “Keith (the first one) Says:
    “I always tell people my star sign is Ophiuchus. Confuses the hell out of them, but it’s just as “right” as Saggitarius.””

    Ophiuchus is not a star sign. You make the mistake of confusing SIGNS for CONSTELLATIONS. They are different.

    “LSandman24 Says:
    “I didn’t think Mercury (or Venus) for that matter could be in retrograde, as they orbit the Sun faster than we do; Only the superior planets could be in retrograde as their apparent motions in the sky reverse as we pass them in our orbit. Just one more thing that bugs me about astrology, I guess. My pet narwhal reminded me of this.””

    You need to restudy your astronomy, Mercury can indeed go retrograde due to its elliptical orbit, of course the retrogradation is only an illusion from our vantage point.

  147. Paul - Astrology User

    Keith at #130
    “As for the Zodiac thing, no astrologer has ever been able to give a coherent answer. Basically, if they haven’t moved with the stars, they cannot be related to the starts. What are they?”

    I’m presuming you mean if the zodiac is not moving with the stars (due to precession of the equinoxes) then they cannot be related to the stars themselves and so what exactly are they?

    If I’m understanding that right then the simple answer is that it woudl depend upon the zodiac that you’re discussing. The sidereal zodiac or the tropical one? The sideral zodiac IS linked to the stars, they take 0 degrees of the constellation Aries and assign that to be 0 degrees of the sign Aries. Tropical astrology is not linked to the stars by themselves. What are they? They are illusory segments of space time which are projected onto the sky and named after the pattern of the constellations which are found behind them (either that or the constellations were named after the zodiac sign, not sure which).

    ND
    “Have you tried syncing them to today’s positions and see if you get different results?”

    Again, that would be a form of Sidereal astrology, it is mostly practiced in India. It is not a form of astrology that I use and so will make no claims for it.

  148. 140 & 141 ND:

    I realize the “happy customer” argument isn’t proof. I was asked what proof I personally had that I wasn’t a fraud. I’m sure many people in many professions could use “the customers keep coming back” as “proof” of their efficacy… without have some kind of controlled statistical study on hand to prove it either.

    As for some kind of public debate? I think you’ve probably seen lots of Believers vs. Athiest squabbling in your time. If I came here supporting Creationism by shouting “Piltdown Man was a fraud! Nebraska Man was a pig! You’re all stupid and going to Hell!” I’d likely get just as much thoughful discussion in retunr, and I’d wander off more convinced of what I think… and so would you. We’d take our dogmas for a walk, they’d crap on each other’s lawns, and we’d all walk away.

    However, I have ALSO seen intelligent debate between the two sides. Maybe a whole lot of minds weren’t swayed… but maybe a few were. And I strongly suspect. IMHO, that those few who were swayed were mostly swayed in a direction the majority of people here at this site would approve of.

    I’ve never seen anything like that, really… has there been? Someone post a link if there has been one.

    You may not like it, but a lot of honest, intelligent people see astrology work. And *I* may not like it, but a lot of honest, intelligent people turn their nose up at it. I think that, in part, that’s because we haven’t seen a lot of smart, structured debate on the matter.

    Asssuming you aren’t a Creationist: suppose you genuinely thought Creationists were kidding themselves but could be reached, and you wander onto a Creationsit site and make a couple of reasonable comments. How long do you think you could maintain a reasonable conversation, surrounded by fifty people yelling twenty different things at you?

    That wouldn’t discredit your point of view… that would just be a brawl.

    I originally found this blog because of my fondness for the original Bad Astronomy site, and I was searching for information to share with an intelligent, thoughtful person who nonetheless denies the Apollo landings.

    144 & 146 Rubber, meet glue. Glue, rubber. (handshake) See what I mean about trying to resolve anything in this format?

    147 @Gonzo I don’t recall ever mentioning shamanism, psi, or crystal balls. And, um… are you trying to refute astrology using the universally-accepted and not-at-all-looked-down-upon mainstream science of parapsychology?

  149. Sarah McLean

    I have seen Matthew use astrology on many ocassions, and can say that he has been right far more often than the sientific community has been in it’s history ;)
    As for astrology being “nonsense” I find that quite hard to grasp, astrology uses the universal language of math. That is hardly nonsensical.

    I would love to see a debate between an astrologer that knows his lifes work like matthew and a skeptic that knows how astrology works, although I think we would have a hard time finding a knowledgable skeptic.

  150. Mark Hansen

    Sarah McLean (#152)
    “…I would love to see a debate between an astrologer that knows his lifes work like matthew and a skeptic that knows how astrology works…
    So would we all but Matthew seems strangely reluctant to make a simple prediction based on Ray’s details, even though Matthew’s website clearly promotes his disputed ability.
    …With a birth chart in place, we can figure out fairly quickly, and in detail, exactly who you are, where you’re at, and where you’re headed…
    So, who is Ray, where’s he at, and where’s he headed? Your words from your website, Matthew.
    …And one more thing: yes, I can see your future too…
    Okay, let’s throw that one into the ring as well. Ray’s future if you please, Matthew. You put the words up on your website. Time to see if your actions can match them.

  151. Mark Hansen

    …You may not like it, but a lot of honest, intelligent people see astrology work…
    And a lot of honest, intelligent people say the moon landings were faked, that homeopathy works, and that other, even crazier, notions are true. Doesn’t mean that they are. Still doesn’t get Ray his prediction either.
    …How long do you think you could maintain a reasonable conversation, surrounded by fifty people yelling twenty different things at you?…
    And who has been yelling? All I see people doing is asking you to back up your claims with evidence. Sans yelling.
    Here’s a better idea. You do this as a job; yes? How often do you get to charge $1M for your services? Not often I would imagine. But JREF are willing to pay out $1M. All you’ve got to do is prove it works. Easy money – if you can do what you claim you can.

  152. 152 @Sarah Thank you!

    153 @Mark… okay, @Ray, you still out there? I’d like to contact you privately to work out agreeable terms before I go blabbing in public about your personal life and such. Can you find my e-mail address on my blog and contact me first? Then, in a few months… we’ll have at least one example of what at least one of us is talking about. :)

    154 I know about the standing challenge from Randi, but haven’t found what the criteria and such he would use, specifically for astrology. Is there a link you can post here?

  153. 154 (I ask because I’ve had a look around his site and didn’t find anything specific. Also, he may be a world-class debunker, but his staff isn’t winning any prizes from ME for their amazing mail-answering skills.)

  154. Mark Hansen

    Matthew, I think the relevant page at JREF is http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge/challenge-application.html. This doesn’t give details specifically for astrology (or anything else) but does mention, in the second paragraph and the first of the official rules, that the applicant and the JREF will agree upon what is being tested and what is considered to be a pass. IANA legal expert so if I’ve gotten it wrong, my apologies, but that would be the best starting point, as far as I can see. The application is also available from that page.

  155. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    I’m having a hard time understanding the need for a debate. In all the centuries astrology has been around, it’s pathetic there is no convincing scientific evidence that there is a real phenomenon behind astrology. That’s what’s important, not some debate. The benefits of a debate would be publicity for you. This is what creationists are after when they want to debate biologists. To be up on a stage, toe to toe with a a scientist would give them credibility in the eyes of the public.

    You said you have evidence, can you quickly sum up in what form this evidence exists? Has to be something other than happy customers, because that’s very subjective.

    Sarah McLean,

    “As for astrology being “nonsense” I find that quite hard to grasp, astrology uses the universal language of math. That is hardly nonsensical.”
    Do you know how this math works? Do you understand it?

  156. 158: And how much credibility have Creationists gotten for their efforts? And Randi is in it for charitable purposes only…?

  157. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    That depends on who you talk to. The goal with creationists would be to increase exposure by being on stage with scientists and making the emotional arguments that appear to make sense but are ultimately fallacies. They play to their base and hope to increase it through the exposure. The term “Intelligent design” is common these days, no? A debate lends credibility when there is none by saying there is something debatable and defensible here.

    To tie in with what Sarah said:
    “I have seen Matthew use astrology on many ocassions, and can say that he has been right far more often than the sientific community has been in it’s history”

    This was a trolling jab but to pull something serious out of it, science is always critical of the evidence and the theories they support. New evidence may change knowledge and theories or throw them out the window as necessary. This does not exist in astrology. Where’s the advancement? Where’s the hard evidence that astrology is a real phenomenon. If there was evidence it would be scientific interest. Scientists would be all over it.

  158. Gus Snarp

    I’m going to put this in this mostly dead comment thread, since it’s fairly on topic, but has anyone noticed that the French soccer coach at the World Cup is an avid believer in astrology? So much so that he chooses which players to start or put on the team based on astrology? And the French team has pretty much been an embarrassment on the pitch so far in the tournament. The players are even protesting. When the French are eliminated embarrassingly early, will it convince anyone to stop listening to astrologers? Sadly, of course not, they’ll just say he didn’t have good enough charts.

  159. Paul - Astrology User

    “So much so that he chooses which players to start or put on the team based on astrology? ”

    Gus

    Can you point me to an article that says that he does this? Would be interested in reading about that, also, seeing as you cannot choose players based on astrology, I’d be interested in HOW he’s doing it too.

    update:
    nm, I see ND has done just that. Seems like he’s actually just using sun sign astrology. Leos in defence? What the hell is that about?! Interestingly a study alluded to the notion that there is some link between sun and moon in adjacent signs and prestige in soccer. If anyone’s interested I’ll try and hunt down the link again.

  160. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    Are you still around?

    Question: Sarah mentioned math. How do you use mathematics in your line of work?

  161. 165 @ND much of how astrology comes to its conclusions is the angle between two planets, either at the time of birth or the angle between where a planet is in the birth chart, and where that planet or another one is currently.

  162. Ah, here we go:

    http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/34/6/465.full.pdf

    Sign-up is free too. And it seems to detect a very strong correlation between… well, you read it and you tell me…

  163. ND

    Here it is with non-sign up access

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1724257/pdf/v034p00465.pdf

    So what is the astrological significance of being born with the sun and moon in adjacent signs?

    I would have to brush up on my statistics frankly to really grok this.

    And also I have to ask … that’s it? Any other studies? Don’t you have a list of these you can throw at skeptics at a moment’s notice? Have there been followups with other world cup events? This one was for the 1998 cup. Additional studies are important to establish this. A single study is just a starter and usually not enough.

    Edit: One thing to again remember, correlation does not mean causation.
    It would have been interesting to see how this would have correlated with the rankings of each player. Would not not be an astrological interest to see if there was a correlation for the top ranking players? Or how about the world cup winners? Any world from astrologers on who might win this years world cup? Or does astrology not work that way?

  164. 168: @ND That’s the thing… if they had consulted an astrologer, they wouldn’t have looked at Sun and Moon aspects at all… although the results they got DID match a principle in Vedic (traditional astrology from India) called Anapha Yoga, which *kinda* matches athleticism… but again, even a Vedic astrologer would be looking at Mars first.

    I wonder what kept them from looking at the same data from the already more established principle of the “Mars Effect”… the Gauquelin study (which, although nitpicked to death in hindsight, STILL demonstrated an effect)?

    There are likely astrologers out there making pronouncements on the World Cup, but personally, I figure it’s a LOT of work to run the calculations on X number of players times Y number or teams, factoring the game dates and times in.

    Again… if the BJSM really wanted to look scientific about it, they could have used a principle that has already been tested and drawn some conclusions from that. But, they didn’t. They found an effect, and said “We found an effect we didn’t predict, and hey, an astrologer wouldn’t have predicted it either! Woo hoo, astrology must be crap!”

    Have very, um, scientific of them.

  165. ND

    They didn’t find an effect. They showed a correlation from a multitude of of possible combinations of data points. If you have enough data points you can make all sorts of connection. This is a fundamental naive pitfall a lot of amateurs make.

    This correlation could easily be a hiccup for the 1998 world cup players, but I say this without analyzing the statistic of the study. I’m guessing it should not be hard to do this with every world cup if you can get the birth data digital form and can then look them up against a astrological data using a simple computer program. In fact it should not be hard to do this with other possibilities such as Mars you mention.

    Actually I think the study was trying to show an astrological connection but that astrologers are crap.

    Frankly I don’t have much respect for astrologers since they make money selling something that’s unproven.

  166. If they were trying to show an actual astrological connection, why didn’t they ask any astrologer what to expect/what to look for? As it stands, they uncovered an effect that they said “we doubt an astrologer would have spotted this”… not that they actually bothered to ask.

    In other words… “Wacky astrologer is wacky” isn’t real science. Uncovering a correlation… even an unexpected one… MAY be real science. And of course… seeing evidence but dismissing it based on “there is no evidence”? That’s approved Scientific Method?

  167. ND

    I don’t know why they chose the Sun/Moon positions for this study and it would have been better to take an astrological prediction and test that directly. I have no direct experience in running a proper scientific experiment so I don’t know if there was a justifiable reason for what they did.

    It looks like they’re explaining their reason for choosing the sun and moon in the first three paragraphs and I’m trying to make sense of it. But I think the gist of it is that the Sun and Moon positions are something that could be tested much more reliably.

    Another thing to remember is that initial studies are usually taken with greater skepticism until additional studies back up the hypothesis.

  168. ND

    To me, and others can chime in on this and correct, the term “effect” is stronger than correlation and implies a direction. Unless I’m wrong correlation does not imply a direction of cause. To me an “effect” is not demonstrated in this study, but the researcher is assuming it.

  169. Aspects to Mars, and it’s sign placement, could have been determined from the same data. And… wouldn’t seeing a “correlation” tend to make one want to see if there is an actual “effect,” generally speaking, in science?

  170. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    If you and astrologers want to be taken seriously by skeptics and scientists, do some actual research and put out some papers. Ie, talk in language of the scientists. Then you’ll have some basis to discuss. That’s the best way. Not some public debate.

  171. Paul - Astrology User

    “If you and astrologers want to be taken seriously by skeptics and scientists”

    ND

    Who said astrologers gave a flying crap about what skeptics think? We could equally argue that if skeptics want to be taken seriously they should learn the language of astrology. But in reality neither side particularly cares overly what the other one thinks.

    It seems you’ve changed tack here though, are you skeptical of astrology, or of astrologers – the two are different. The study mentioned above shows a statistical correlation between the sun and moon positions and world cup atheletes – you might argue that that’s the astrology. That no astrologers taught this would happen is irrelevant to astrology and only relevant as a rebuttal of the astrologers. The subject, and those that study it, are two separate things.

    Also
    “Frankly I don’t have much respect for astrologers since they make money selling something that’s unproven.”

    Do you have equal disrespect for psychologists? How about for life coaches or certain personality team type testers? Would you have equal disrespect for astrologers that do not charge?

  172. ND

    Paul,

    Matthew Currie, a self-professed real astronomer, wants a debate and definitely wants to be taken seriously. And I did say “If” in what I wrote. If you want to be taken seriously. What I said is valid.

    I have not changed any tack. I’m skeptical of astrology and astrologers themselves. I’m skeptical of the phenomenon and skeptical that astrologers actually come to their belief through any critical thinking.

    As for your last sentence. What’s your point? I have no respect for anyone who peddles unproven methods. Did I say I have respect for them? What the heck is a ” personality team type testers” anyway?

    Also a minor nitpick from a previous post:
    “You need to restudy your astronomy, Mercury can indeed go retrograde due to its elliptical orbit, of course the retrogradation is only an illusion from our vantage point.”
    The retrograde motion of an inferior planet is not dependent on the eccentricity its orbit.

  173. Paul - The Astrology User

    ND

    “The retrograde motion of an inferior planet is not dependent on the eccentricity its orbit.”

    You said “Only the superior planets could be in retrograde as their apparent motions in the sky reverse as we pass them in our orbit”, which is simply untrue. My point about elliptical orbits was that, if nothing else, were you to imagine an elliptical orbit projected onto a 2 dimensional view you would see the planet oscillating back and forward as you would be looking at the planet at a viewpoint wherein the axis would appear flattened. So even if nothing else moved and just that one planet did, you would still notice a retrograding effect as the planet moves forward then appears to slow down and reverse again – all because the planet travels in a circular or elliptical fashion. Hope that makes more sense.

    “What’s your point? I have no respect for anyone who peddles unproven methods.”

    Well that was my point, you only appear to respect that which has been scientifically verified. My question then is whether this applies to all things or whether it applies to only the things you subjectively feel is woo. For example many psychological methods are not proven in a scientific setting but do you feel equally about that as you do about astrology?

    “What the heck is a ” personality team type testers” anyway?”

    People who test others on their personality type within teams. For example Meredith Belbin and Myers Briggs style testing.

    In short my point is that there are lots of things that we accept which has not been scientifically verified, so why make special exception for things like astrology?

  174. ND

    Matthew,

    That still just correlation. Correlation does not imply causation.

  175. ND

    Paul,

    You’re quoting someone else. I did no say inferior planets don’t show retrograde motion. I was nitpicking a small detail where it looked like you were saying the elliptical shape of the orbit is the cause of the apparent retrograde motion. The eccentricity would effect the size of the retrograde motion but is not the source of it.

    As for the other fields, this thread is about astrology and not other questionable fields. Psychology is a field where scientific methods are used but by my limited understanding subjectivity is an issue because the topic is human nature. It’s not like physics where you can test general relativity to a high degree of certainty. Psychologists may correct me on this. But at least that field publishes peer reviewed papers. Don’t see anything close to that in astrology so I would not put astrology and psychology on the same levels.

    “In short my point is that there are lots of things that we accept which has not been scientifically verified, so why make special exception for things like astrology?”
    Who is we? Just because a lot of people believe in bunk and woo does not mean I or you should too. You’re promoting non-critical thinking here.

  176. ND

    Paul,

    Here’s a nice little demo showing retrograde motion. It’s simplified in that the orbits are all circular (non-elliptical) and on the same plane.

    http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/olcweb/cgi/pluginpop.cgi?it=swf::800::600::/sites/dl/free/0072482621/78780/Retro_Nav.swf::Retrograde%20Motion

  177. 180. @ND So, you want proof of a principle BEFORE evidence of a principle?

  178. ND

    Matthew,

    Huh?

    Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

    You should also read up on “proof” and “evidence” in science.

  179. Matt T

    Good FSM, this is still going on? Well, OK then, maybe I’ll chime in, after all. Firstly, thanks, Matthew C, for keeping the tone pleasant and respectful.

    Now, a couple of simple, direct questions for you (Matthew):
    1) Is astrology all about the positions of stuff in the sky or not?
    2) Can astrology make specific predictions about the future or not? (Yes, yes, I know astrology is inanimate… you know what I mean.)

    By (1) I mean “is there more to it than just plugging numbers into an ephemeris and reading the resulting chart”? Do you have stare deeply into someone’s eyes or anything? Or is the information Ray provided enough to work out Stuff About Ray?

    By (2) I mean stuff like “you will come into a significant amount of money (probably $500 – $2500) that you weren’t expecting, sometime in the next two weeks”.

    To help you see where I’m going with this: what good is astrology? Can “the stars” really tell me something nobody else could? Or would I be just as well served by a certified psychotherapist/counselor?

    You (pl.) insist that those skeptical of astrology understand it before bashing it, so help us understand. I’ve heard some astrologers give waffly “the stars inform, they do not compel” excuses; I’ve heard others claim magic predictive powers (which they can’t demonstrate). So please help us out: which is it? Thanks in advance…

  180. Matt T

    And while I’m here, with regard to the sun-moon sign WC footballer study… it can be helpful to bear in mind a wonderful saying attributed to von Neumann: “With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”

    I’ve seen similar studies and claims — that swimming medalists are more likely to be Pisces or whatever. They all suffer from the same “elephant-fitting” problem. There are literally thousands of things you could test for. Finding a non-uniform distribution in *one* of them isn’t that significant… *unless* there’s an a priori reason for looking at that one thing. That’s rather the point of the contention about the lack of significance of sun-moon sign difference. A proper scientifically testable claim would be “astrology says good footballers should have these [specific] traits”. Then you test that specific pattern for correlation.

    Indeed, showing that there’s a correlation with something astrologically insignificant actually demonstrates the “elephant-fitting” problem with astrology. Throw around enough variables (numerous planets, even more numerous aspects, ascendant, descendant, mid-heaven, houses, yadda yadda yadda) and you’ll find *something* that will correlate with *something*. But the something and the something with which it correlates had no real meaning or significance. Oops.

    And, finally, binning everything doesn’t help. 365 days/360 degrees get binned into 12 buckets. Then the sun-moon difference was calculated from those discrete bins. That does rather increase the chances of finding some non-uniformity. But what was the distribution of the actual angle between sun and moon? After all, aspects are measured in degrees, are they not? Or maybe bin into 5- or 10-degree bins, since (IIRC) that’s about the tolerance used for astrological aspects. And, again, test for astrologically significant aspects (30, 45, 60, etc degrees).

  181. 184 @ND I know that correlation does not imply causation. But when ytou see a correlation like that, in the Gaucquelin data, you aren’t the least curious? Or should we cling to the Aristotolean notion that “only a peasant could believe rocks fall from the sky” despite all the peasants seeing it… until we take an honest look and discover meteorites?

    Sometimes correlation DOES indicate a cause. You won’t know until you set your preconceptions aside and test further. I thought that’s what science was all about.

    185 @Matt T Thank you.

    1) Although that’s kind of an over-simplification… that’s how it works. No need to read body language, tone of voice, or whatever. Sure, that helps… but of course it helps with a medical diagnosis too.

    2) Yes.

    As for “the stars compel…” et cetera… I have my hands full defending astrology. Please, let’s not get into philosophy. :)

    186 I wondered about all that myself. Again, though, if an astrologer had been asked, the search would have been for Mars data, not Sun and Moon.

  182. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    You need additional evidence to go to the next step of establishing the causality. There is nothing additional to go on that convinces me that Mars has a direct effect on our lives. You need more than just a correlation. And no I am not curious because there is so much going on on Earth, in our lives and environment that impacts us directly and in a measurable way. Those I’m curious about more.

    You’re telling me I’m being archaic and Aristotolean when you’re the one clinging on to an old belief? Really?

  183. Paul - Astrology User

    ND

    My apologies I confused your name with the other poster.

    With regards retrogradation, my point was to illustrate that even if nothing else occurred we would STILL have retrograde motion due to the non-linear orbit of the planets, they move elliptically and so would appear to slow and reverse, of course other things cause this phenomenon too, but the elliptical orbit also accoutns for it. In other words, unless you are at the centre of the circle (the sun) then the planets will appear to retrograde because of their orbit.

    “Who is we?”

    We as people generally. We, the human race generally (non specifically). Do you believe in psychology? This was my point.

    “my limited understanding subjectivity is an issue because the topic is human nature.”

    And if I argued that astrology also deals with human nature would you not throw out the “special pleading” argument. Could I not also say that irrespective of human nature there is special pleading going on for psychology? If it’s good for the goose…

    ” It’s not like physics where you can test general relativity to a high degree of certainty. ”

    Similarly then can we apply astrology, if it is ‘allowed’ for one subject, why not for another? I can argue that the workings of astrology are also not like physics where you can test [etc etc] and so is equally as exempt as psychology.

    Psychologists may correct me on this. But at least that field publishes peer reviewed papers. Don’t see anything close to that in astrology so I would not put astrology and psychology on the same levels.”

    Peer reviewing in psychology is not like with physics though. I mean we could peer review theological doctrine in the same way but that does not mean that god exists – it is the closest analogy I can think of. Astrologers could just as happily peer review their work if it came down to it, but again this is an argument against astrologers, and not against whether astrology itself works. This is my point about keeping the distinction of the two as clear as possible and separating an argument against one away from an argument against the other.

  184. Paul - Astrology User

    Matt T

    You’ve addressed your question to Matthew, but if you don’t mind I’ll also answer them, being also someone who studies and uses astrology.

    “Is astrology all about the positions of stuff in the sky or not?”

    Yes and no. If you mean can you do a reading based only on a chart yes, but this includes other things such as the ascendant and house systems which are not ‘things’ in the sky, they’re divisions of the horoscope to aid in organisation amongst other things. The ascendant is very important but it is a mathematical point if you like, it’s not a phsyical thing. So yes and no if you see what I mean.
    I think what you mean to imply was do you need to have some pretension of psyhic ability or even see the person, the answer is no, you do not. However just as in psychology it helps to have at least a rapport with the individual so too does it help in astrology. Just like we cannot say in psychology “Absent father figure” + “bad social status in family” + “bad breakup” = “depressed client”, we also cannot say “moon square saturn + pluto in 4th house etc etc” = ” anything”, it can direct our thinking but we must have rapport with a client to cnofirm or deny it. That said it you really wanted to come down to it, yes you can just use a chart and nothing else, however say you had the entire history of a person laid out on front of you in terms of factual things to have happened to them, any psychologist would still be wary of saying anything DEFINITE about the person, because we don’t know how each person has dealt with each thing, but we can make good educated guesses. That’s the best analogy I can think of.

    “Can astrology make specific predictions about the future or not?”

    Some say yes, some say no. Depends on the astrologer whether they think they can do that. My belief is that it is a yes in terms of cycles. If you see a recurring pattern you can ‘predict’ a recurrence of similar circumstance, however we cannot predict how the person will cope with that or address it or deal with it. We can predict that something of the nature of the planetary influence will be likely to make itself known in the person’s life, the exact details of which (i believe) we cannot predict.
    There is a branch of astrology called horary which is completely different and more ‘magical’ in its outlook and should be considered a very separate beast.

    “Can “the stars” really tell me something nobody else could? Or would I be just as well served by a certified psychotherapist/counselor?”

    Depends really. I mean a psychotherapist etc can counsel you a la an astrologer. However many people do not like psychotherapists or counsellors or their approach. Also psyhcologists cannot predict the timing of recurring patterns, where as astrologers can (because of the planet’s cycles). Also some astrologers claim to be able to do horary (magical-esque astrology) so if you ask “where is my glasses” they claim to be able to find them via astrology. However that is a WHOLE other use of astrology. Not every astrologer thinks like that, some do, some don’t.
    As a real life non-theoretical analogy, one person I know is going to an astrologer because of recurring relationship difficulties. I have no doubt that a good psychotherapist would be equally good and useful for her, but she won’t go to one. Why? In her words “oh I’m not crazy, why would I go to a psychotherapist, that’s for people who are crazy”. It’s untrue of course, and yet there’s that stigma that she’s not comfortable with. I’m sure the psychotherapist, using different approaches and tools, would arrive at the same underlying issue for this woman and her problems with relationships which stem from a mythologising an absent father figure. The astrologer noticed the natal aspects and the timing of events (given by her) and correlated it with specific planetary complexes and using the tools of astrology counselled the woman.
    Could non astrologers have helped, absolutely, would she have gone to one, I honestly don’t know.

    “I’ve heard some astrologers give waffly “the stars inform, they do not compel” excuses”

    That’s not an excuse, that’s a very important understanding – astrologers do not claim that the planets compel. We have free will. Astrologers acknowledge this. It is not an excuse. The problem is in a preconception that astrologers “predict your fate”, when this is not true. If astrologers are claiming to be able to predict the future accurately and predict what’s going to happen to you, then they are either lying or in possession of some greater tool than my study of astrology has revealed. So this is actually an important maxim in astrology, the stars do not remove free will nor do they provide causation. Astrologers do not claim otherwise and this quote is just a succint way of explaining it.
    I do believe that the main problem here is not so much how modern astrologers operate as much as it is down to the image of astrology because of preconceptions of what it is which are ungrounded in modern astrology.

  185. Paul - Astrology User

    Regarding Proof of Astrology:

    It is my view that we are going about it all wrong by examination of individuals with regards the search for proof or the lack thereof. Because human nature has addtional complexity, and astrological influences are only one part of a jigsaw (genetics, social status etc are also equally important parts of the jigsaw), it is my belief that we should abandon natal astrology (astrology used in regards people).

    Instead social astrology should be used. Most skeptics and those not educated on astrology believe that it is a tool used for describing traits of people such as “oh you’re a leo so you’re warm hearted”, that’s one angle of it of course. However astrology also claims to have effects upon the world at large – mundane astrology. This is a much richer testing ground in my view.
    Take for exampel the correlation of Jupiter Saturn cycles and the interest rates in america. The cycles of Juptier and Saturn scarily accurately immitate those of the american interest rates and vice versa. This is a much more interesting arena of analysis as it is dealing with a mass populace rather than an individual within it. It is like examining the whole watch, rather than examining one tiny cog within it.

  186. 188 @ND Okay, I understand that there are other things that you are more interested in, just as a person could not be all that interested in astronomy but find oceanography fascinating, or whatever. Nothing wrong with that. As for the Aristotle reference: I bring that up as an example of how what appears (from the inside) to be a rational, well-thought-out system of ideas can still sometimes be wrong. And that can apply to dismissing correlations that indicate Something Is Going On that doesn’t fit one’s world view. Of course, astrologers and those who believe in it are accused of that plenty. I’m suggesting that maybe, sometimes, “woo woo” is only that because you *called* it that.

    198 @Paul – Astrology User

    1) Well said.
    2) I often recommend that people check out the 3th March 04 issue of NewScientist… the “paranormal” issue. The main section starts in a very interesting way… with two bar graphs. One shows the results of a cumulative study of a well-known antidepressant and how well it works. The other illustrates the results of a cumulative study of precognition experiments. Long story short… the “woo woo” appears to be more grounded in reality than the antidepressant (which is still being prescribed and used by millions, BTW).

    Then NewScientist dares to ask… “why do we think of one as ‘science,’ and the other as ‘nonsense’?”

  187. ND

    “Take for exampel the correlation of Jupiter Saturn cycles and the interest rates in america. The cycles of Juptier and Saturn scarily accurately immitate those of the american interest rates and vice versa. ”

    How do you know it’s not just a coincidence? How long a period of time does this correlation cover? You’re assuming (or wanting to believe) that Jupiter and Saturn have an effect. There are a multitude of cyclical events happening on Earth and it’s impossible for some of them not to correlate or be very close simply by coincidence. That does not mean there is a connection between the two.

    How do you know that in addition to all the Earth based factors at play with our lives (and interest rates in your example) that the planets themselves are also directly influencing events? How are you able to figure this out? Is this just a belief? How does one conclude this? There is a reason why in science hard evidence and critical evaluation is so important. Human judgement is biased and fallible. Scientists are not excluded from this.

    Matthew Currie,

    Current scientific ideas, models and theories are all incomplete. Some are really, really good at approximating reality. So much so that we can use them to land people on the moon and send people to the bottom of oceans and make car crashes more survivable. I fully expect the weaker models to be either modified or thrown out. And I’m sure there are drugs out there that don’t do much, or only help a smaller group of people than researchers thought. That’s not the issue. Just because peasants were right about rocks falling from the sky does not give any credibility to something else such as astrology. I’m interested in good hard evidence. Not some weak correlations.

    Each idea, model, hypothesis, such as astrology need to be evaluated separately on the evidence. If the planets are somehow influencing us with some hitherto unforeseen or undetected mechanism and good evidence of this comes about, of course we will accept it. Why? Because it’s additional knowledge of how the universe works and that’s exciting. Look at what the scientific process has discovered so far about nature that we have accepted. Stuff that Aristotle and his peers would have a hard time accepting. Accepting strange, counterintuitive ideas is not the issue. It’s the hard evidence.

  188. Matt T

    Matthew & Paul

    Thanks for giving straight answers. So it seems like you agree on 1: astrology can make accurate “predictions” (claims/interpretations/whatever the right word is) based purely on ephemeral data. Cool.

    But it seems that you disagree on 2. Matthew said (and I quote) “yes”, but Paul said “yes and no”, and, if I interpret correctly, essentially sided with “no” on specific nitty-gritty predictions, such as the “you will get $500-$2500 in the next two weeks” example I gave. (Paul, please correct me if I misunderstand you.) This is why this drives me a little crazy. We (astrology doubters) keep being told to really understand astrology before we dismiss it, but — to be blunt — astrologers don’t seem to be able to tell us consistently what it is/does. Yes, yes, free will, not compelling and all that… but if I’m going to get audited by the IRS next Thursday, should I expect an astrologer to predict that?

    And again, my point is “what good/use is astrology?”. So maybe I have to have two separate discussions here. I see the point of it in Matthew’s view. Knowing that I’m going to be in an auto accident in August would be helpful. But now I’m wondering why you seem reluctant to take Ray’s challenge. (I’d happily give you my data, too, but I don’t know my exact time of birth. But if you want another subject: Oct 21, 2005, 5:10pm, Boulder, CO.) I understand that one or two data points isn’t conclusive, but I’d be impressed if you nailed some specific occurrence from just birthdates. And, more importantly, why not scale up and demonstrate this ability empirically to statistical significance? Frankly, I’d say you are morally obliged to, if you’re taking money for these services. If I cook up some chemical sludge then sell it to you claiming that it cures headaches (cancer/impotence/etc), I will soon be visited by the FDA. Unless I can produce evidence to back up my claim, I’m in big trouble. That evidence, of course, is generally a clinical trial. So why is this not done by astrologers? In Matthew’s view, at least, surely the combo of (1) and (2) makes this feasible: get 2n volunteers; randomly change the birth data for n of them; give you the 2n charts and have you make m specific, time-bound predictions for all of them; that’s 2mn predictions that can be tested; see if the group with correct birth data has a statistically significantly higher occurrence of correct predictions. That would satisfy me. It would still, technically, be correlation only, but it would be hard to refute the efficacy.

    It’s usually about this point in the discussion that I start to hear about “the stars do not compel”. That’s why I (rather bluntly) talked about waffly excuses. Apologies to Paul, if you felt I was too blunt, but it does often come across as an excuse for not having any worthwhile predictive power. If you start from the position that astrology is more like psychology/sociology than fortune telling, then fine, it’s not an excuse. But the follow-up question is still the same: what use is astrology? If it’s about the broad patterns, not the specifics, let’s study it in the same way as the social sciences. As was mentioned earlier, the social sciences are subject to scientific rigor. It’s not just peer review — it’s peer review of scientific methodology and analysis. (That’s what makes psychology different to theology, to refer back to your analogy.) So you’re right that you can’t say “Absent father figure” + “bad social status in family” + “bad breakup” = “depressed client”, but you *can* say “Absent father figure” + “bad social status in family” + “bad breakup” = increased probability for “depressed” (to x degree, which is significant at a y% level). And a published psychology paper will make that case, with general arguments as to why, based on previous scholarship, then show an experiment or study, with full examination of the data, and draw a conclusion based on the statistical analysis. So why can’t (or won’t) astrology do that? Let’s see some hypotheses generated astrologically, then tested empirically. To date, this hasn’t been done*. And that’s why scientists consider psychology science (albeit a difficult and fuzzy one) and astrology pseudoscience.

    *The closest I’ve seen is the kinds of elephant-fitting correlation studies mentioned here. You talk about the “correlation of Jupiter Saturn cycles and the interest rates in america”. Feel free to give a link to some data on this, but honestly, based on my previous interactions with astrology apologists, I’m expecting (1) “generous” interpretations of the data, and (2) over-excitement about a random correlation in a pile of data, akin to seeing Jesus on a tortilla. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s what it’s always been in the past. Please change my mind. Really. I’m open to evidence, but I’m also skeptical of it — that’s scientific training for ya.

    Whew. That was epic.

  189. @Matt T Thanks again. Actually, I haven’t avoided Ray’s challenge… I just mentioned to him that he should find my e-mail address on my blog and write me… I don’t know how much of this he (or anyone else) wants thrown around in public.

  190. Paul - Astrology User

    Matt T

    “Paul, please correct me if I misunderstand you”

    No that’s essentially correct.

    “This is why this drives me a little crazy.”

    Understandable. Unfortunately there is no ‘magisterium’ or organising body in astrology and so there are as many opinions on astrology and as many ‘experts’ as there are users of it. It’s kinda annoying for astrologer users too btw. All one need to do is write any old crap mention taurus or aries, throw in some cliches and you got yourself an astrology book and it would appear in the mindset of the readership this makes you an expert on astrology. As is obvious, I disagree with this approach. I examine the traditions of astrology and then take a personally empirical approach. If Matthew claims to be able to predict an exact amount (in your example) fair dues to him, I’d absolutely LOVE for him to explain his method to me in how he arrives at this result, but my guess is that he cannot either. My guess is that he means the same as I do but misunderstood what you were implying.

    “astrologers don’t seem to be able to tell us consistently what it is/does”

    Understandable but really the splitting of hairs GENERALLY only occurs on particular details. An analogy might be asking someone about gravity. They explain newton’s theory of universal gravitation, then some other psysicist comes in with einstein’s theories on gravity then we examine it further and actually we discover that the scientists are splitting hairs over string theory over other theories etc etc, however what they all agree on is that if you drop that rock it WILL fall. That’s the closest analogy I can think of to this lack of accepted criteria upon what astrology is. This is more relevant when it comes to things like house systems. If you don’t knwo what they are, just ignore it, if you do you’ll understand what I mean. Astrologers don’t agree upon every single thing, but then neither do psychologists or scientists so it’s not really any different to that. Unlike those professions though any old tom dick or harry could claim to be an astrologer. This isn’t an argument against Matthew obviously, I mean generally, I do think Matthew would agree with my post upon the exactitudes of divination with astrology, I do think it’s a miscommunication.

    “why you seem reluctant to take Ray’s challenge”

    There’s a LOT of posts here, I’ve read a lot but what exactly was Ray’s challenge? Just curious! Thanks

    “I understand that one or two data points isn’t conclusive, but I’d be impressed if you nailed some specific occurrence from just birthdates”

    But astrologers do just that. I mean the onus is on the astrologer to ‘link’ with the client. Most astrologers will do that. For example a typical astrological reading might go something like this. You sit down and the astrologer examines your chart, then asks some questions to double check the chart appears radical for the client – “did your parents separate when you were in your early teens”, etc, if the client says no but my father went overseas at that time, well we might think oh okay the symbolism of a missing parent figure is still there, it’s just not as i expected but then will continue to make other observations on the chart. Chances are if the client says ‘no’ to them all then there’s little point in moving forward. Now the problem here is that being a good skeptic you will and indeed should, point out confirmation biases etc which are all acceptable arguments there, I can’t think of a way to have a dialogue with a client without allowing for that. That’s not to say it’s necessary but in reality what astrologer asks the client to stand behind a divide so that they can’t see them and then asks them to make no sound. They don’t. However a good astrologer will accurately ‘predict’ the person’s past before moving on to anything else. If the astrologer does not appear to be able to do this with any ‘acceptable’ degree of accuracy, they’re not worth their salt and you should leave.
    Now just for laughs I’ve been predicting the matches in the world cup for the UK and the US and so far have gotten them all right, of course that could be chance or it might not be. I’m new to this kind of approach (sports with astrology) so I’m still learning but I’m pleased with my results so far. I’ll be wrong soon I’m sure and hopefully will learn from it. If it appears that I am wrong as often as I am right then I’ll abandon the study of it as being erroneous. It’s also fortunate for me that I’m CLUELESS on soccer so I genuinely have no ‘bias’ upon who I expect to win. I have no idea who is a good or bad team.

    “Frankly, I’d say you are morally obliged to, if you’re taking money for these services.”

    Should a psychologist or psychosynthesist do the same? Do they in reality?

    “Unless I can produce evidence to back up my claim, I’m in big trouble.”

    I wish that were the case but in a world where the majority of antidepressants perform only marginally better than a placebo in most cases this is sadly not the case.

    “In Matthew’s view, at least, surely the combo of (1) and (2) makes this feasible: get 2n volunteers; randomly change the birth data for n of them; give you the 2n charts and have you make m specific, time-bound predictions for all of them”

    You might find this interesting:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N1dIUTbZTo

    But let’s be honest, even though the astrologer was accurate here you could just argue that it was ‘luck’ or ‘chance’ or whatever and that he should do it a thousand times etc etc. I’m not disagreeing just showing that ultimately there’s a bias at work that the astrologer is expected to fail and if this doesn’t happen rather than assume that the astrologer was correct, the asssumption is that the criteria for testing must have been faulty, after all astrology doesn’t work so if it is shown to then there’s something wrong with the test.

    “It would still, technically, be correlation only, but it would be hard to refute the efficacy.”

    All this talk of correlation, I should really point out that as far as I know NO astrologer KNOWS why astrology works and therefore any claims to the contrary, that it is not merely correlation, should be taken as being outside their speciality to discuss, and so can be ignored. Unless of course they’re also physicists, but my guess is they’re not. I have no clue how astrology works, there are thories of course, but I have no clue and don’t make any bones about it. Causation? Maybe but unlikely, synchronicity-correlation is more likely for me, but hey, wtf do I know?

    “what use is astrology?”

    And it’s a fair question. I guess you could ask what use is psychology as well. It doesn’t really do anything, most psychologists just sit there listening. What good is that? But of course it is beneficial even if it appears to have no efficacy. Psychologists use their tools and models of understanding to do so, astrologers use another ‘language’ in order to do it. They’re not the same obviously, I’m being simplistic to highlight the point. Another way to approach this is from the other way around, what use is psychology when we have astrology? of course you’re biased toward not even considering that outlook, but it is still a logically valid one. Personally I don’t see why there is a suggestion that only one avenue is allowed. Just as we have a variety of cars in a variety of colours and shapes to get us from A to B so too can we have a variety of tools to get us from A to B, psychology, astrology or whatever other one works.

    “increased probability for “depressed” ”

    Yes and this is waht astrology needs to do. I agree with that completely. However I disagree with the ‘sun sign’ type studies as in reality that’s NOT astrology, it goes back to my point that any old idiot can mention taurus and in doing so they ‘become’ an astrologer – there’s no criteria or organising body that makes you one. Now of course there are qualifications these days, I have one myself, but where do you see those qualifications in newspapers etc? You don’t, and we all know why. So yes to your point, but again, remember that absent father etc etc are all just correlations as well, they are not causations. So too for astrology I think. One difficulty that we face with astrology is that, for example, Sun Neptune hard aspects can indicate an absent father figure. But maybe not ‘physically’ absent, maybe emotionally absent, or a father who was uncapbable of being a stronger father figure. But it could also be someone who mythologises the father figure instead. This is a difficulty with it being tested and one of the primary reasons for questioning the client, it helps us figure out just how the metaphor is working out, because astrology is a symbolic language as opposed to a precise one, if you see what I mean. It is more like it operates through a right brain mentality – symbolism, archetypal ideology etc.

    “So why can’t (or won’t) astrology do that?”

    I’ll do it now if you’ll fund me. Will you fund me? No, neither will many others and those that do ASSUME that the test will fail and that it hasn’t failed is used as a reason for why the testing criteria were flawed. For example a study showed that there was an efficacy to homeopathy, but o course there COULDN’T be, it wouldnt make sense, therefore the conclusion was not that there was an efficacy to homeopathy, the consensus was that there was a flaw somewhere in the testing methods, though they hadn’t found it yet. Why waste our time proving something to others when in reality we all know that we’d just be wasting our time. Again I think it would be better served by examination of mundane astrology, it would be simpler, easier and probably less expensive. But how many scientists even KNOW of mundane astrology and who actually would want to touch astrology with a barge pole? That there are so few ‘proper’ tests would indicate that there are equally few, or even none.

    “Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s what it’s always been in the past”

    Well I’m actually looking at a graph of the interest rates in america, superimposed over which is a graph of the cycles of jupiter and saturn, in particular their squares, oppositions and conjunctions. The interest rates change NOTICEABLY when there is one of these aspects. If I can upload it I will and show you, but you may find it yourself if you research Arch Crawford.

    “Really. I’m open to evidence, but I’m also skeptical of it — that’s scientific training for ya.”

    Which is good. Although it may appear contrary to popular opinion a lot of astrologers get pi$$ed off with shoddy thinking as well. For example nothing annoys me more than when I’m discussing something astrological and the person brings in stuff from the Secret, or their fave crystal healing book, or talk about angels and ‘light’ and all that new age stuff. Astrology has gotten lumped into that but let’s be honest, Astrology is ANCIENT it is far from new agey, unfortunatley it’s so watered down that most people actually think that astrology is about how Geminis are quick and clever but Libras are indecisive. If you asked someone 100 years ago what their zodiac sign was they wouldn’t have had a clue what you were talking about. An astrologer would be confused too, do you mean sun sign they’d ask, or ascendant? What’s new agey about astrology is that it’s become crap.

    WHOA, THAT WAS WAAAAAY TOO LONG!
    Sorry guys!

  191. Matt T

    @Matthew (& FYI Paul)
    I said you “seemed reluctant”. A quick recap:
    – Ray (109) on June 17th, 2010 at 11:06 am gives his specific birth info and asks for a prediction.
    – Matthew, 6 minutes later, says that that wouldn’t achieve anything.
    – This goes back and forth for a while, with skeptics claiming that Matthew is all talk and no walk, Matthew claiming that this wouldn’t prove or disprove anything.
    – Matthew (123) on June 17th, 2010 at 1:11 pm says “I’m here asking what would satisfy you guys”
    – Ray (133) on June 17th, 2010 at 5:50 pm says “I have posted what would satisfy. I gave you the time, date, and place of my birth (#109). Show me astrology works.”
    – Matthew again responds “even if I did satisfy your criteria, and you believed me, do you honestly believe many others here (or elsewhere) would be convinced by a representative sample of one?”
    – So Ray gives up: (135) June 17th, 2010 at 6:16 pm: “I’m done with you Matthew. Its obvious you’re just playing out the tactics in the woo handbook. Its boring. You could at least try some fresher tactics to keep my attention.”
    – Others keep prodding and pushing.
    – Finally, Matthew (155) on June 18th, 2010 at 6:20 pm says “okay, @Ray, you still out there? I’d like to contact you privately to work out agreeable terms before I go blabbing in public about your personal life and such. Can you find my e-mail address on my blog and contact me first?”

    Seriously, Matthew, you don’t see why someone might possibly think you’ve been just a wee bit evasive? After numerous exchanges, it’s only a full day after Ray makes his last post (declaring that he’s done with this) that you “accept” his challenge. And even that comes only after several others call you on it. And it still relies on Ray suddenly reappearing and emailing you. Very convenient for you, really. A skeptic might just possibly — if they were, y’know, nasty and skeptical — maybe think that perhaps you stalled until Ray gave up, so that you can then claim that you offered to take his challenge but he never responded! It’s *his* fault! Bad skeptic, not giving you a fair chance! Yeah.

    Well, I gave you a birth as well. I hearby give you license to say what you like, unless it gives away information that would compromise the subject’s safety (“you will be alone and unarmed in an unlocked house with 1 million dollars next Tuesday at 8pm, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Buttmunch, TX”). Actually, on second thought, just so there’s no wiggle room, you can even say that, if you like. That’s only a problem if it’s true…

    A specific prediction, preferably in the near future, if you please. Subject born Oct 21, 2005, 5:10pm, Boulder, CO. Do you need exact lat/long? I can find them.

    And if Paul wants to play along, how about your version of astrology? Want to give a non-specific reading? General character or whatever? Harder to judge the accuracy, but I’m willing to play along.

    PS: Matthew said “I don’t know how much of this he (or anyone else) wants thrown around in public”. Really? Shouldn’t you be able to work that out? 8-)

  192. Matt T

    @ Paul (196)
    Yeah, this is getting long. I’ll try to be brief (sorry if, by consequence, I appear too blunt). It seems that you want to have your proverbial cake and eat it too. You appear to be describing a kind of therapy/counseling type of astrological reading, which is fine, but what’s the point of the astrology, then? That’s what I’m driving at with the combo of my two questions: what actual bearing does the arrangement of stuff in the sky have on the counseling? If Mars is retrograde in Sagittarius in a square aspect with Sedna (or whatever), does that mean that someone is likely to have an absent father figure? Seems like you’re saying “on average, yes, it’s more likely, but people/noisy data/yadda yadda”. OK, that’s fine, but then we have two issues to look at: one is the basic underlying scientific correlations; the other is the practical application in the counseling process. For the first, let’s see the data. Let’s see the statistical analyses. For the second, this is where I see confirmation bias coming in, big time. (Just as you predicted. Wow, you must have great powers…) As much as I don’t want to play “compare and contrast” with the social sciences… papers are published on the underlying correlations all the time. There’s plenty of scientific backing for certain sociological/psychological statements. Based on these, there’s the practical application of psychotherapy/psychiatry. But here’s the big, key difference: a psychiatrist may think that factors point toward an absent father, but instead of “predicting” it, they’ll simply say “so, tell me about your father” or maybe “was your father around much when you were growing up” or similar. The underlying correlation simply gives them something to ask about, not make any “predictions”. By contrast, the way you described an astrological consultation makes it sound like a perfect setup for confirmation bias to work its magic. If the prediction fails, oh well, then it’s just like psychiatry — these things aren’t certain, etc etc. But if it works, yay astrology, isn’t it amazing! The stars predicted your absent father. You want your cake of spooky predictions by the stars and eat it too when it fails.

    So again, what is it that the stars and planets and mid-heavens and houses are actually providing? They’re making predictions… but not really. And if not really, why do you need them at all? Why not just ask some questions and make some suggestions based on the answers. Therapy, in other words.

    To hammer the point: astrology is fundamentally based on getting *something* — some information — from the position of stuff in the sky. What is that something? What is it that astrology is uniquely able to tell me? And can it be demonstrated to tell me something that I couldn’t get from asking questions, or reading tea leaves, or meditating in a pyramid, or…?

    Psychiatry, BTW, is fundamentally based on looking at the factors in a person’s life that shape their personality. No planets, aspects, or ascendants needed. Plurality should not be posited without necessity, right? You’re positing a plurality by introducing planets, aspects, and ascendants. So show me why they’re necessary.

  193. Paul - The Astrology User

    Matt

    “Subject born Oct 21, 2005, 5:10pm, Boulder, CO. Do you need exact lat/long? I can find them….And if Paul wants to play along, how about your version of astrology?”

    No can do I’m afraid. It’s just a personal thing, but I think it could be deeply unethical to read a chart of a child. I have no doubt that you, being a healthy skeptic, would not project too much from it, but I just don’t think it’s a healthy way to approach things. Post your own and I’ll write a quick paragraph only if there’s something of particular note worthiness.

    “sorry if, by consequence, I appear too blunt”

    I’m tough skinned, it’s all fine!

    “what actual bearing does the arrangement of stuff in the sky have on the counseling?”

    Okay I’ll likewise try to be succint. It provides an alternate model of interpretation. Not better, not worse, just alternate. What is the use of a toyota when you have a renault? There are similarities, there are differences, this is true in all expression of life, astrology-psychology is just one. In fact many astrologers nowadays utilise psychology as well. Liz Greene and people like her effectively pioneered this approach if you want to learn more.

    “what actual bearing does the arrangement of stuff in the sky have on the counseling?

    It is to do with patterns and recurring cycles. A pattern is observed at TimeX, using astrology you can ‘skip ahead’ in time until the pattern repeats or makes a similar aspect and ‘predict’ the recurrence of the theme previously observed. Hope that makes more sense.

    “does that mean that someone is likely to have an absent father figure?”

    It’s symbolism and archetypal themes. The Sun represents amongst other things a father archetype. The condition of the sun represents in metaphoric symbolic language the inner ‘picture’ of the father. Neptune for example symbolises ‘loss’ or diffusion, lack of clarity or blurring of boundaries. The two in harsh aspect could indicate a loss of father figure or a confusion of father figure boundaries. We need more circumstantial ‘evidence’ from the chart to ascertain more.

    “one is the basic underlying scientific correlations”

    Pass. I’m not a physicist. I’m inclined to consider Bell’s Theorem on this one – metaphorically if not in exactitude. I don’t understand the mechanics of electromagnetic wave propagation either, but it doesn’t stop me from observing that a microwave heats up last night’s dinner.

    “but instead of “predicting” it, they’ll simply say “so, tell me about your father””

    So will an astrologer. This is an archetypal language, if it’s not your father, it may be another similarly archetypally ‘correct’ symbol. Remember that the theory of astrology renounces a tabula rasa effect – there are no blank slates in astrological reasoning. We’re born with preconceptions, as to how accurate they are objectively is difficult to determine. A good astrologer attempts to determine them all the same.

    “perfect setup for confirmation bias to work its magic”

    Yup, it coudl well be that this is the case. One thing I agonise over is whether that’s all it actually is. Undoubtedly astrology provides a language and model for understanding the human psyche, every bit as good as psychology does in my view. However it is entirely possible that it is simply an intellectual framework to work off just as a psychologist would. I try to be careful about this as I’m ultra aware of it, but it’s impossible to rule out completely. I’m more comfortable with this kind of ‘attack’ on astrologers than the sort that assume that astrologers are willingly pulling the wool over peoples eyes to make a quick buck. It’s much more likely they’re just fooling themselves innocently and genuinely believe in what they do. Of course I happen to think that there IS something to it, but if there actually isn’t, it’s not that astrologers are trying to con people, they actually believe it themselves.

    ‘And if not really, why do you need them at all?”

    Oh you don’t NEED them, any more than you NEED a psychologist.

    “What is that something? What is it that astrology is uniquely able to tell me?”

    Okay, patterns and recurring themes and how they are likely to affect you in the future.
    People come asking “why is this happening to me” and astrology has a framework to check what’s going on now, rewind the clock and find out what happened before. What happened when you were 17 because this is a continuation of that cycle. Oh your father passed away, and what’s happening now again? Oh your boyfriend of 5 years just dumped you. The cycle has to do with loss of the male archetype perhaps and the ensuing emotional dramas that are projected outwardly onto male people in your life due to a lack of incorporation perhaps of inner masculine archetypes. What’s not incorporated internally is projected externally and tagged as ‘fate’. (hoping this is starting to make more sense now)

    (okay I tried to keep it as short as possible, i totally failed! So many questions to get through! Sorry for rambling but just wanted to address the questions properly)

  194. Paul - Astrology User

    Matt

    Just remembered you said you didn’t know your time of birth so we can’t use your chart after all. I’m just against reading the charts of minors.

    But anyways, let’s imagine a scenario where you yourself wrote down some general commetns on your life and your character, even things like ‘parents separated when I was 9′ etc. Then if Matthew and I wrote that “difficulty in the parental dynamic betwen 8 and 10′ you could quite plausibly say, nope, that coudl apply to anyone. Of course any of it COULD apply to anyone, that’s true of any personality based test, anyone COULD be an extrovert, or thinking-perceiveing person or whatever else in teh style of myers briggs testing but the point is that whilst anyone COULD be like that, not everyone IS like that.

    So even if we got it totally spot on, you may just shrug and say ‘nope’ and nobody would know any better. In any ‘testing’ scenario there should be a lack of bias and of course an astrology skeptic judging astrology is hardly non biased.

    So with that in mind I’m sure this is a total waste of time anyway. If it was YOUR chart, I’d consider it and do a quick paragraph to give an example of the kind of thing that astrologers actually do, but I don’t like reading for other people who don’t know about it nor for reading about children. There’s a whole branch of astrology called synastry where you look at two charts for compatibility. I don’t use that either for the same reason, in my view reading someone elses chart isn’t a good approach to astrology as you don’t have teh permission of the person you’re reading and you’re knowingly reading it anyway.

    Maybe you’ll see this as a cop out or whatever, that’s fine, it’s actually just a case of having an ethical code to astrology. Just as you couldn’t grab a psychologist and say “psycho analyse that person over there”, you can’t grab an astrologer and say “interpret this person’s chart”.

  195. 197. @Matt T Sorry, I got busy there. Ray, you, or anyone else is invited to contact me privately to work out anything you like. Sorry the offer to play along didn’t come quickly enough for your tastes. (shrug) It’s still there if you want, though.

  196. Otis

    So tell me all you skeptics of astrology, how much time have you spent studying the subject? Since it is obvious that none of you have ever tried to learn anything about the “message of the stars”, you opinions really don’t mean squat. Oh, yes, you are entitled to your opinions, but they really have no basis for anything. They are just poppy-cock. I am an electrical engineer. I studied the subject for 4 years in college. Now if you have never studied electrical engineering, you may not believe or understand how Ohm’s Law works. You may even say it is bunk. Yet I know that Ohm’s Law works because I have studied it as well as tested it. Have any of you ever done that with astrology? Of course not!

    It’s amazing to me how people who have never studied the subject think they know more than those who have. The ignorance they display is unbelievable. But I guess this is no different than 1st-graders thinking something is ridiculous just because they are too young and too inexperienced to have gained true understanding of the matter at hand.

    Q: How can planets so far away influence us here on earth?

    A: Because the forces they represent are spiritual forces and those forces are not subject to time, gravity, and distance like we are familiar with on earth. If someone is unaware of this fact, then obviously they can make wrong assumptions about astrology.

    Q: How does a rock in space have any influence on us?

    A: Because that rock in space is actually the physical body of a great spiritual Hierarch and the forces that operate through and by these Hierarchs are forces that are designed to help us in our evolution. Do you really think that man, as bone-headed as he is (look around you), could have designed this solar system and all the laws and spirits that are here learning in this School of Life? Don’t kid yourself. We all have unseen teachers that are helping us evolve on our way to becoming better souls. Just because you cannot see these Hierarchs doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The planets you can see, and if you understand the truth behind what you physically see, then it would be easier for you to understand how and why astrology works.

    Q: If astrology works, then why can’t it predict the future?

    A: It can – at times. But not all the time. Why? Because we all have free Will and are in control of our own destiny, thus the future can be changed, avoided, circumvented, etc. Astrology shows tendencies only, so nothing is locked in stone. The mass murderer doesn’t HAVE to be a mass murderer, yet he does have tendencies which if uncontrolled may lead him in that direction. A person’s individual Will can override any planet’s influence, if the person decides to exercise his will. Why is that so hard to understand and accept? It’s perfectly logical.

    Astrology “works” because the solar system above is reflected within each of us. The forces the planets represent are forces that are in each of us. If you understand these forces, then you begin to understand your tendencies. The same forces produce the same tendencies, although there are many individual ways these tendencies may be put into action or lack thereof. Why? Because spirit creates matter. Matter is simply a reflection of what is in the spiritual worlds. The planets are the matter, but the forces behind them, and within us, are the unseen spirit behind everything.

    Please reconsider your points of view, folks – you would find that doing so could prove beneficial to you. But it’s your choice – you have free will. “The wise man rules his stars, the fool is ruled by them.”

  197. ND

    Otis,

    What is it with electrical engineers and woo?! There have been so many EE and other engineers who have posted on this blog in favor of woo.

    Are you for real? Are you Poeing? Really? Astrology is on the same level as scientifically established concepts such as Ohm’s law? I don’t think anyone here questions Ohm’s law, even if they haven’t studied it, because of the solid evidence behind it. It’s a tested and validated principle. Astrology isn’t. They best evidence is some correlation.

    ” Because the forces they represent are spiritual forces and those forces are not subject to time, gravity, and distance like we are familiar with on earth. If someone is unaware of this fact, then obviously they can make wrong assumptions about astrology.”
    How is this a fact? Where is the [ censored ] evidence?

    Wow. Just wow.

  198. 203 @ND Is it really that galling to you that *gasp* someone who isn’t a complete idiot might disagree with you? That someone who might actually understand science might still see astrology working too?

    Does this not say more about the skeptics than the thing they are skeptical of?

  199. ND

    Matthew Currie,

    One can be perfectly intelligent and believe in wacky ideas. The guy can be a brilliant EE and still believe in, oh I don’t know, that the US congress is under the control of aliens from a nearby system with a base on the far side of the moon (made that up as an example).

    He has beliefs unsupported by evidence and is asserting that they are facts.

    “Just because you cannot see these Hierarchs doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
    How am I supposed to accept something like this when (s)he can’t provide evidence for the existence of these “Hierarcahs”. He’s making assertions not disagreeing. I’m the one disagreeing that there is something real about astrology.

  200. Matt T

    @Paul
    Have you read “Mostly Harmless”, by any chance (5th book in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy”)? I get the feeling you would identify with the description of astrology given there by the character Gail Andrews: http://books.google.com/books?id=17kxQrzchwcC&lpg=PA24&ots=bJP8OW4CgK&dq=gail%20andrews%20mostly%20harmless&pg=PA30#v=onepage&q&f=false (the whole scene starts here on page 30, but the key bit is at the bottom of pg 31 and top of 32).

    This seems to be the best defense of astrology I’ve ever encountered, I think. (Sadly ironic, then, that it comes from a fictional character written by a huge skeptic… oh well.) Is this basically your position?

    But anyway, my main problem is still “why do you need planets?” Or, firstly, “do you need planets?”. Again, it’s an Occam’s Razor thing for me: if astrology is really just about uncovering patterns and cycles (which is what I understand of what you’re saying), then why not just study patterns and cycles? Why introduce planets? Yes, they generate nice cyclic patterns, but why limit yourself to those that happen to have been created by certain chance occurrences in the formation of our solar system? Why not just say “hey, patterns and cycles! Let me whip out my Fourier Transform, maybe a low-pass filter or two, and analyze the heck out of these various data sets.”?

    So yet again, it comes back to: are *the planets* actually providing anything? If not, I see no need for them. If so, what is it and how do I identify and demonstrate this effect?

    And from a practical point of view, even if they are emanating “quantum ether rays” (or whatever) that cannot be detected by any physical means, nor demonstrated in any tangible way, what practical benefit is gained from believing this? Russel’s Teapot, in other words.

    @Matthew
    OK, as you choose. I said that you could make any prediction you wanted here in public. So I don’t see why I need to contact you privately. This isn’t really for my benefit either. Ray (and I and others) made the offer/challenge so you can impress us with your spooky abilities and start the process of changing our minds. If you don’t want to stick a public prediction out here, that’s your call.

  201. Matt T

    @Otis
    Haha. Nicely done. I actually thought you were serious, but I’m afraid this was the give-away: Do you really think that man … could have designed this solar system…?

    Not even the wackiest woo-meister thinks that people really believe that the solar system was designed by humans.

    The stuff about “the physical body of a great spiritual Hierarch” was quite awesomely absurd, though. 5 stars.

  202. 206 @Matt T: Okay, what sort of prediction would satisfy you?

  203. Paul - Astrology User

    @Matt T

    I’ve not read the book and no preview available for it for me to comment on it. Perhaps if you summarise the character’s position I can affirm or deny that it is similar to my own position?

    “Again, it’s an Occam’s Razor thing for me: if astrology is really just about uncovering patterns and cycles (which is what I understand of what you’re saying), then why not just study patterns and cycles?”

    Oh you could, in fact that’s all you’re doing really when you get down to it. The planets are just the representation of the cycles. Occam’s razor is not a philosophy that applies here. It WOULD apply if I was saying, use the planets as well as using AlternateCyclesToolX, but I’m not. That’s not to say you COULDN’T use those other tools, just that astrology is itself one of those tools.

    “Yes, they generate nice cyclic patterns, but why limit yourself to those that happen to have been created by certain chance occurrences in the formation of our solar system?”

    Well why limit yourself to any patterns that occur by chance by any other system? The planets are no more ‘chance’ than any other pattern that would be used so there is really no argument here. They are uniform enough that we can calculate planetary positions with a good degree of accuracy for hundreds and even thousands of years. Of course the further away we get from a particular epoch the more error we’ll have but even then we’re often talking a degree or two of right ascension and possibly a bit more due to gravitational perturbations. But even with this it’s pretty damn uniform cycle, in fact it is arguably more uniform and more predictable than any other pattern or cycle that you might care to analyse.

    “So yet again, it comes back to: are *the planets* actually providing anything? If not, I see no need for them. If so, what is it and how do I identify and demonstrate this effect?”

    The question should not be why use ToolX over ToolY. We do not apply this thinking to other walks of life. We woudln’t apply occam’s razor to computer equipment and say hey we have microsoft so why not do away with all this apple stuff, what’s the point of it. THe point is just that it is different and to the users of it is more accurate or superior in whatever foci they take to have importance. So too with astrology. Nobody, certainly I am not, suggesting that astrology should usurp psychology or any other system of cycles or patterns, I am merely explaining how astrology works (in my understanding), it is for whoever chooses to use these toosl whether they use astrology or not. It is not my place to argue that someone should or should not use astrology or use any other tool, arguably it is not yours either, all we can do is point out the tools available and let the craftsperson select which one he feels is right for the job. The proof would be in the pudding, if they and their clients are happy with the result they won’t care what tools were used to arrive at that conclusion, just as you wouldn’t care whether your memo was printed from a mac or a pc computer, it’s the memo you’re interested in, and the same is true for astrology.

    “And from a practical point of view, even if they are emanating “quantum ether rays” (or whatever) that cannot be detected by any physical means, nor demonstrated in any tangible way, what practical benefit is gained from believing this?”

    I’m not going to speculate on how astrology works, if indeed it does work, so I won’t comment on any physical phenomenon that may be at work. When we talk about physical means and tangibility we’re outside what astrologers today can provide or know about. Therefore it’s an impossible question, I don’t know is the only answer to give to this part of the question. HOwever what can be benefitted is the understanding of cycles and patterns and all the rest that I’ve described already. Just as surely as a patient for a psychologist would not say “show me the metadata and all teh studies done to arrive at these psychological conclusions otherwise it won’t benefit me” neither would this logic apply to a client of an astrologer. HOW the astrologer/psychologist got there is pretty irrelevant to the client, THAT they have gotten there is what’s important for them and their proof is in their own pudding in that if it helps them then it’s all good. We might argue about administering placebos but in reality astrologers ACTUALLY believe in what they’re talking about, they’re not just trying to fool their clients.

    So the majority of your points seem to center around the question of what particular unique selling point does astrology have that no other system has, the underlying message being that if there is none than why bother astrology. Personally I think that astrology provides a great system that is at least equal to psychological systems for understanding the human ‘condition’, but in addition it provides an excellent tool for the understanding of cycles and their possible effects prognostically. It further allows for an understanding of a philosophical concept of an a priori mentality negating a tabula rasa effect at birth and in doing so raises more questions about the workings of the personality and human mind, but in its approach it can show that the person is likely to have particular characteristics as shown in a pictographic form BEFORE we even speak to the client.
    Now personally I think that that ticks a lot of boxes for me and if we want to use the philosophy of Occams razor we might equally suggest that seeing as this one tool ticks so many boxes why bother with introducing other ones? WHy not stick with this ‘swiss army knife’ kind of tool?

    @Matthew
    “what sort of prediction would satisfy you?”

    Why not specify what predictions are possible first?

    (apologies for my last comment which was ‘adf’, just testing something as I couldn’t get my post to work)

  204. Matt T

    @Paul
    OK, don’t know why Google books isn’t working for you, but here it is (well, what I think is the key part). Background: Gail is a famous/influential astrologer; she’s talking to a journalist who had raked her over the coals in an interview…
    ‘I know that astrology isn’t a science,’ said Gail. ‘Of course it isn’t. It’s just an arbitrary set of rules like chess or tennis or–what’s that strange thing you British play?’

    ‘Er, cricket? Self-loathing?’

    ‘Parliamentary democracy. The rules just kind of got there. They don’t make any kind of sense except in terms of themselves. But when you start to exercise those rules, all sorts of processes start to happen and you start to find out all sorts of stuff about people. In astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make. It’s just a way of thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge. The more rules, the tinier the rules, the more arbitrary they are, the better. It’s like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are. It lets you see the words that were written on the piece of paper above it that’s now been taken away and hidden. The graphite’s not important. It’s just the means of revealing the indentations. So you see, astrology’s nothing to do with astronomy. It’s just to do with people thinking about people.’

    But whether or not that’s your view… my problem with your position is right here (using your words, which should be representative of your views, right?):
    Oh you could [just use patterns/cycles], in fact that’s all you’re doing really when you get down to it. The planets are just the representation of the cycles. Occam’s razor is not a philosophy that applies here.
    That, to me, is two opposing statements mashed together. Occam’s Razor is “plurality should not be posited *without necessity*”. You’ve just stated that the planets aren’t necessary, ergo, by the Razor, they should not be included. The fact that you include the planets and midheaven and so forth, without any justification for doing so, is precisely why Occam applies.

    You seem to think that it’s just an aesthetic choice between one “tool” or another, but that’s not the point here. The point is that you’ve added something that you acknowledge is unnecessary. To work with your tool language/analogy (as best I can)… builder 1 uses a blue hammer, builder 2 uses a green hammer; everyone would agree that it doesn’t matter what color the hammer is; but if builder 2 says that green hammers are great because the ancient wisdom of the Atlanteans told him that green hammers derive great nail-impelling ch’i by aligning the chakras of solar rays, I’m gonna call bull****. And if builder 2’s friend then says that no, it’s not really anything to do with chakras, but insists that green hammers are still awesome, I’m still going to say that s/he should stop talking about the damn color of the hammer. Either the color is important or it’s not. If it is, show me why. If it’s not, don’t pretend like it is. At very least, you have to show me that the green hammer works better than the blue one, even if you don’t know why.

    I’m guessing you’d say at this point that they’re both still using hammers. But my point is that one is claiming something about the color, which has nothing to do with its effectiveness in walloping nails.

    That’s why I’m invoking Occam.

    If the planets — qua planets — have nothing to do with astrology, astrology should stop talking about them. And at that point, astrology is statistics and signal processing. See? That hammer already exists, but doesn’t pretend to care what color it is. All this “symbolic language” about “Neptune being in a square aspect with Mercury” is just painting the hammer green, if all it really means is “every 2.761 years, energy consumption in Europe and the Nikkei undergo a simultaneous jump”.

    Remember, you’re the one who states that you don’t know how or why astrology works (and neither does anyone else). So all you have is correlation. Which, in itself, is fine. But pretending that a correlation is something to do with planets is positing a plurality (painting the hammer green). Unless you can show a necessity for doing so (which is tricky given that you have no how or why), you’re violating Occam’s Razor.

    Also, by limiting yourself to green hammers, you miss the chance to make a better hammer (by focusing on something related to the hammer’s actual function, rather than its color). This is the point I was making about limiting yourself to the cycles created by the planets. And I think you missed that point: you said “The planets are no more ‘chance’ than any other pattern that would be used”… this is true only if you assume I’m looking for something to *generate* patterns (/cycles/correlations), rather than simply study the patterns (/cycles/correlations) themselves. Again you’re advocating one color against another; I’m saying forget the color and look at the hammer. I can generate — sans planets, aspects, or, indeed *any* physical apparatus — a description of every possible cyclic phenomenon on earth with infinite precision. Don’t believe me? Behold: sum_n a_n sin(n pi t/T). Astrology arbitrarily throws out some of those terms because, by chance, our solar system formed with certain periodicities hard-wired into the finite number of masses in it.

    If it’s all just about the cycles and correlations, we have mathematical tools that can study those without having to introduce any unnecessary pluralities (be they planets, cosmic rays, invisible pink unicorns, chakras, space teapots, or anything else), and, at the same time, without introducing any limitations that may accompany those.

  205. Matt T

    @Matthew C (208):
    Anything specific in the recent past or near future. Preferably something that has a low probability of happening to any randomly chosen person.

    BTW, I already gave examples: “you will unexpectedly receive $500 – $2500 dollars this week”, “you will be in a car accident on day x” (some detail, such as color of the car would be good, too). You haven’t specifically said if these kinds of predictions are actually possible, so Paul makes a good point: Why not specify what predictions are possible first?

  206. flip

    I’m late to this party and I suspect no one’s reading this thread any more, but anyway…

    @Paul

    “Just as surely as a patient for a psychologist would not say “show me the metadata and all teh studies done to arrive at these psychological conclusions otherwise it won’t benefit me” neither would this logic apply to a client of an astrologer.”

    Actually, as a patient, I WOULD want to see the data (or at the very least know that the doctor was using a methodology/treatment that has proven efficacy and low-no side effects) if they were advising me on how to change my life. Isn’t that what astrology is according to you? A method to improve or effect change in my life? The fact that many patients don’t care of how the doctors get there suggests a lot of reasons why so many people get sucked into sCAM treatments. That patients are too trusting or don’t ask, doesn’t mean the doctor – or the astrologist – should be allowed to make claims that are either incorrect or not backed by any science.

  207. Paul - Astrology User

    (third time having to make this reply, I click submit and then my post disappears, weird one)

    “OK, don’t know why Google books isn’t working for you”

    My guess is that there is a licensing issue depending on what country you are in. I am posting from the UK for example and the book may not be available for that country for particular copyright issues.

    “but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make. It’s just a way of thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge.”

    Ok so I actually do think that the planets themselves are important, not as causal factors, but as ‘reflections’, sort of like there is a fractal effect in the planetary movement with regards human nature and the mundane world (metaphorically speaking), so philosophically I do happen to believe that the planets are reflective, whereas, for example, drakes and ducks are not. However what I am saying is that it is fully possible that I am wrong on this score and that actually, like Gail is saying, it is merely just providing a framework or model to think about a certain problem. I happen to believe that it is not, but I am not so foolish to think that I am right on this score as I do think it could be equally probable that, like Gail says, it is irrelevant what you project the understandings on to. Certainly when you hear of astrologers using the incorrect birth time or date it would suggest this. I do not know having never done that, but it is fully possible. Basically I’m somewhere between Gail and what you might regularly assume of an astrologer. I THINK the planets are a kind of ‘fractal’ (can’t think of a better metaphor) representation, but if this isn’t the case then astrology is merely providing an abstract model of thinking which is useful regardless of what it is projected onto (in this case planets).

    “Oh you could [just use patterns/cycles], in fact that’s all you’re doing really when you get down to it. The planets are just the representation of the cycles. Occam’s razor is not a philosophy that applies here……”

    Oh okay I think you’ve misunderstood what I meant here. What I’m saying is that yes, you are just looking at patterns and cycles, but you cannot remove the planets from that picture because it is by way of the planets themselves that you are observing the patterns, without them how would you observe them? It would be like saying “oh statician, i get that you’re examining this information but I really do think that these numbers and graphs are just positing plurality, let’s remove them”.

    “if all it really means is “every 2.761 years, energy consumption in Europe and the Nikkei undergo a simultaneous jump…..sum_n a_n sin(n pi t/T)… If it’s all just about the cycles and correlations, we have mathematical tools that can study those without having to introduce any unnecessary pluralities”

    Continuing from my last point with these counter arguments in mind. The statician is simply using a numerical and graphical system to examine the patterns, the graphs arising from the numbers which are representative of something else (stocks, prices, whatever). Similary an astrologer is using a graph arising from, rather than numbers, planetary positions (degrees in effect). It is actually no different that the astrologer examines his information from planetary degrees than a statician examines them from any other arbitrary mathematical choice. That statician could equally use colours or the pitches of sound to examine them but naturaly the human mind is less able to process these things logically as it is mathematics, but whatever FORM we choose to examine something in is irrelevant, they are merely a medium through which our minds understand the information being examined. Astrologers use planets as that medium, or rather their placement. If you wanted to convert that information from being [symbol of mercury][symbol of aries][planetary degree] to being some other representation, fine, it’s irrelevant. You’re still examining the same system. In continuing your example it would be like rebuking the builder for using the hammer as he is using it and instead suggest he hold it in his left hand rather than his right or swing it a particular way. It is the same sytem whether you convert it into a mathematical formula or not.

    So actually whether we convert the planets into mathematical formulae or not is simply a matter of approach, you’d still be using astrology. The only thing that would change is the language that you use to study it, you would be converting the symbols of the planets in their current degrees for a number or formula which would represent the VERY same thing. Whether you wrap the hammer in a pretty bow or not, you’re still using that hammer.

    “But pretending that a correlation is something to do with planets is positing a plurality”

    Your logic is starting to fray here. The correlation is between the planets and the psychology of the person (for example). How then can we say that a correlation involving the planets, being something to do with the planets, is positing a plurality. The correlation INVOLVES the planets, therefore using them is not positing a plurality any more than telling the statician that fine use your statistics but when you start introducing numbers and graphs you’re introducing plurality.

    “Also, by limiting yourself to green hammers, you miss the chance to make a better hammer”

    With all respect, this is completely without logical merit. It would be no different than saying that because an astrologer suggests that a dog is an animal with four legs, all animals with four legs must be dogs. Just because an astrologer uses a tool does not imply that he may not use other tools or that he may adapt or develop or evolve those tools. In fact we can see historically that the mindset of how astrology is determined and how it works has indeed evolved and become more refined. We also see that astrologers all too often also study psychotherapy or psychology, or study those first and then study astrology. In other words, by sheer merit of simple example, we can that this logic falls down almost immediately. It has NO logical merit. To think that using one tool prevents you from using another is silly.

    Even if it were true, we could apply this kind of thinking to any other kind of builder – science, psychology, anything at all. This is simply some muddy thinking. Of course the builder can put down his hammer to pick up a saw or a screwdriver or to pick up a different kind of hammer, a sledgehammer say. Astrology is JUST a tool, I happen to think that its an effective tool, but it still JUST a tool and like every tool, it is only fit for its purpose. A screwdriver will never saw through wood, a hammer will never turn a screw. So it is with all tools and astrology is no exception, it is however, utterly erroneous to think that because someone really enjoys hammering in nails, that he will be incapable of picking up a saw.

    (in address to Matthew)

    “You haven’t specifically said if these kinds of predictions are actually possible, so Paul makes a good point: Why not specify what predictions are possible first?”

    Yes, I don’t see how you can be expected to suggest what prediction you would like when it has not been made clear what predictions are ‘available’. Also, I’m not sure how we might test the efficacy of his prediction. One argument made against astrology is a kind of forer effect, so let’s imagine that Matthew makes his prediction, couldn’t it equally be that the querent simply reads into it what he wants? This is what is argued against astrology but it coudl work in reverse could it not. The querent being so unwilling to accept that astrology may have any efficacy whatsoever, may just as equally, in a kind of reverse forer effect, suggest that it was completely wrong whatever happens.
    Something, or at least someONE more objective would be needed to test this claim. Something that is, if you like, a third party to this forum.

    Perhaps a prediction on who would win the world cup, or about a particular famous person. Something that we cannot tamper with and that our inherent prejudices either for or against astrology cannot interfere with. Otherwise all we’d ahve is the querent’s word, which considering they are here to argue against astrology, would be worth next to nothing.

    @flip

    “if they were advising me on how to change my life. Isn’t that what astrology is according to you?”

    No. The ‘client’ may wish to change his or her life, but it is not my place to tell them how to live their life. Astrology is not about changing people’s lives, at least not for me, it is about explaining particular cycles and patterns, possibly predicting future ones, and, in dialogue with the client, help work through a course of action that is constructive for them.

    “should be allowed to make claims that are either incorrect or not backed by any science”

    Just curious, would you apply this thinking to religions as well, who, after all, make potentially more damaging claims? How about life coaches?

    In any event most astrologers nowadays make their clients understand that astrology is not scientifically verified, if for no other reason than to prevent legal action. Astrologers are not trying to hoodwink their clients into thinking they’re at a science lesson or at a scientifically approved model of study, astrologers are astrologers and are happy to get that across. Most professional astrologers will have information to that effect and on most astrologer’s websites you’re likely to see a list of things that they do or do not do.

  208. Matt T

    @Paul (#infty)
    “Also, by limiting yourself to green hammers, you miss the chance to make a better hammer”
    With all respect, this is completely without logical merit. … It has NO logical merit. To think that using one tool prevents you from using another is silly.

    Um, really? You create a complete strawman out of what I said, and claim that *I’m* the one with logical failings….? Cute.

    Where did I say that an astrologer wouldn’t use another tool? What I actually said was that adding something unnecessary to a tool, and claiming that it’s important, blinds you from improving that tool or gaining full benefit from it. Yet again we come back to the question I’ve been asking all along: do the planets actually add anything? You seemed to say no they don’t (“Oh you could [just use patterns/cycles], in fact that’s all you’re doing really when you get down to it. The planets are just the representation of the cycles”). So why not just study the cycles? That’s what mathematics does: it abstracts the relationships from the objects themselves. In Aristotelian language, it is purely the formal cause. So it is *not* the same thing as astrology (or any other representation based on physical objects). In my analogy, the formal cause — the mathematics, the pure abstract cycle — is the tool (the hammer); astrology is painting the hammer green because its adding something (the correlation of that cycle to a specific astronomical body). Thinking that the greenness is important limits us because we lose sight of the fact that only the cycles are important, which means that we can look at whatever cycles we want, not just those dictated by n lumps of matter orbiting the sun (where n = O(1) – O(10) depending on who you ask).

    I know this is a simplification, but to make the point… the orbit of Jupiter takes 11.86 years; suppose I look at interest rates and see an 11.86 year cycle; OK, I can use Jupiter or I can use math, no major difference. But what if interest rates show a 12.73-year periodicity? Either I can arse around trying to force some combination of 11.86 and 84.32 (Uranus) and 0.24 (Mercury), and so on, to fit 12.73… or I can just forget about planets, run the interest rate data through an FFT, and say “hey, look, interest rates are periodic at 12.73 years”.

    The only reason to keep the planets in the picture is if they actually contribute something. In which case, what? And show me how they add whatever it is that they add.

    Or to look at it another way: you have a tool that you claim achieves some goal. Let’s assume that it really does achieve that goal (something that I don’t think is settled, as far as astrology is concerned, but let’s assume it for the sake of argument). Scientifically and skeptically speaking, I want to know what aspects of the tool are necessary for the tool to do that job. One simple(ish) way achieve that is to remove bits and see if it stops working. You’ve said that you could take away the planets and it still works. But take away the cycles and (surely) it doesn’t. That suggests to me that the planets themselves are spurious, and that correlations to planetary cycles are coincidences with other confounding variables. However, if all the cycles and correlations that showed up in mundane data happened to have astronomical correlations as well, then I would believe that that was too coincidental. So are you claiming that interest rates have an 11.86 year period and the price of cabbages in Iowa has an 84.32 year period, but nothing has a 12.73 year period? (Not literally, of course.)

    Because otherwise, even if interest rates are exactly 11.86-year periodic, what about all the things that aren’t? So, yeah, as you predicted, I’m going to call confirmation bias.

    Once again, finally, do the planets give anything more than formal cause? In particular, are they (again, to use Aristotelian terms) the efficient cause?

  209. Paul - Astrology User

    Matt T

    “What I actually said was that adding something unnecessary to a tool, and claiming that it’s important, blinds you from improving that tool or gaining full benefit from it.”

    Oh I totally misunderstood/misread what you meant.

    Okay, it seems like the crux of your argument is in suggesting that using the planets is unecessary.

    Basically the patterns themselves are seen via the planets. It is not a pattern that, by chance, happens to coincide with a particular planetary cycle. It is not that the price of cabbages as an 84.32 year period reflecting a planet which has that cycle as well. This is because if we were to do as suggested here and reduce the cycle to a mathematical formula we’d have to do so for all the planetary cycles AND their interplanetary cycles. If you can create a formula to do that, then go for it, but you’re STILL using the planets as the primary information giver, this is subtly different than simply saying every 84 years X, Y and Z happens you’d have to see if another planet was interfering with this cycle. For example, with my Jupiter Saturn interest rates cycle, the aspects of Uranus with these planets can, predictably, alter this cycle, blips in the information may be seen when Uranus gets mixed in as well. The every X years formula also removes the notions of retrogradation, typically in astrology you may have, for example, a triple conjunction, the first conjunction, then a retrograded conjunction, then another forward motion conjunction – each of which may offer something different depending on which one it is.

    If we return to natal astrology, this cyclic idea would be irrelevant. If we simply convert the planets into cycles of X years then we miss all the interplanetary stuff that make up the aspects which is the real crux (in my view) of astrological merit – you are not simply a Sun in Taurus, you are a Sun in Taurus in the 11th house conjunct Saturn and opposition Pluto – very different. Then there is also the fact that, for example, you may have all your planets in water and air signs and utterly lack earth and water – all this must be taken into consideration. The planets tell us more than JUST their cycles, it is merely that we can use their cycles in addition to their positional information to help us build a psychological profile.
    As an example, take someoen who has no earth in their chart (earth signs are capricorn, taurus and virgo), let’s imagine this person has NO planets in any of those signs. The psychological archetypes that earth refer to is less conscious in the individual and as a result there may be either overcompensation, projection or just basic lack of that element in their lives. it might depend on the position of earth-like planets such as venus and saturn which one, as well as the ascendant and midheaven. A strong Saturn, Earth signs for the Ascendant and MC would alter which way this would swing. However we can say that with the earth-related archetypes less conscious, the person may act it out less consciously – normally the lack can create a ‘vacuum’ that you get sucked into overcompensating for it. At its most crude, earth archetypes may be related to material/manifest subjects – particularly the body and money. Take the example then of Bill Gates or, say, Donald Trump, both of whom have earth lacking in their chart, but whose lives are FLOODED by earth stuff. So the lack of earth creates a vacuum in the psyche and the person overcompensates and act VERY earthy.
    You would not be able to make these understandings merely by looking at their cycles. Their positional information is of utmost importance AS WELL. However once we build up this picture and notice the Sun – Neptune oppostion we mentioned earlier, then we can use the planets and project them forward or backward to observe their cycles for prediction or prognosticationary puporses. This part could be done using just a mathematical X years formula of course, but even with this we miss out on the retrogradationary cycles and again the interplay with other planets. Let’s imagine that in X years time the cycle repeats, but this time Neptune is also aspecting otehr planets or it’s not just neptune aspecting the sun now, it’s also Saturn – all this has a different interpretation.

    If this can all be done mathematically or formulaicly then go for it, but you’d it’s all still the planetary positions that you’re basing your information from, whether you convert that information into graphical form a la a natal chart, or mathematical form a la a number of formulae doesn’t really matter.

  210. sam

    Study astrology seriously (learn the archetypes, aspects, houses, etc, and keep note of whats going on astrologically and in your world/the world at large) for a year and then see if you still feel it’s wrong. I dare you.

    Harmonics son, its all about harmonics.

  211. Matt T

    @Paul
    OK, sorry, this thread is probably officially dead now. Which is a shame actually because we might have been finally getting somewhere. Anyway, if you’re still lurking…

    So yes, I’m asking if the planets themselves are necessary. (Asking, because I don’t want to be accused of arguing against something I don’t understand… Oh, wait, too late. Thanks sam.) Obviously you can do the calculations theoretically, without a telescope. In fact, that’s exactly what you are doing when you make a chart, assuming you consult an ephemeris. What I’m getting at is whether the numbers have to originate with the planets. And it seems that you’re saying: yes, they do.

    BTW, I said above that talking about basic cycles was a simplification. I realize that. But all the rest of the features of a chart (houses, aspects, elements, etc) are just cycles on cycles. Which is why I mentioned the Fourier Transform earlier –similar principle: give me an infinite orthonormal basis set and I’ll fit any time series data you want. Enough cycles interacting will give you a myriad possibilities to correlate to virtually anything. And that’s precisely why I want to know if the planets actually contribute. By saying yes, you’re claiming that astrology isn’t just elephant-fitting. Absent father figures don’t just correlate with a bunch of interacting non-phase-locked periodic functions; absent father figures correlate with Jupiter being retrograde in sagittarius *because*[astrological reasoning goes here].

    Huzzah. Now we have something approaching testability, no? Get a bunch of people, determine which ones have daddy issues, give their charts to an astrologer, sit back and be amazed at the statistically significant rate at which said astrologer picks which ones. Or even just see whether the subject with daddy issues have a higher rate of retrograde sagittarian Jupiters.

    Oh. But then we get the stuff about the lack of earth in Bill Gates’s chart being the reason his life is full of earth. Come on, seriously? Did you really just say that the reason someone is rich and powerful is all the earth signs in their chart… unless it’s the lack of earth signs in their chart? Okaaaaaaay. Now might be a good time to bring back my original question: what use is astrology? What testable, verifiable, falsifiable predictions can it make? What can the planets tell me that not-having-planets cannot?

  212. flip

    @Paul,

    All I see is a lot of blather, but really, nothing to convince me astrology works (ie. you make a prediction, it holds true). If nothing else, you’ve simply reduced your argument to sophistry and a cover for cold reading, but even then you can’t show that it *does* work. Anyway this basically means you’re doing psychology, not astrology. For which, I think, it may have been pointed out to you that in this case, your use of the planets are merely redundant. The fact that you think planets have something to do with it says more about your *beliefs* in *how* it works, but says nothing whatsoever about the fact that it *does* work (or not, as the case is). Astrology or psychics, they’re pretty much using the same method of cold reading and just positing some ‘otherworldy’ idea onto it.

    Funny that you mention astrologers studying psychology; in my last year of high school, in our psychology subject, we learned all about astrology. And how it was absolute crap.

    “Astrology is JUST a tool”.

    Well, you’re right about that, but not in the way you mean it.

    … Anyway, in your reply to me you try and state that astrology is not about changing people’s lives. But then you state: “Astrology is not about changing people’s lives” and then in the same sentence, “help work through a course of action that is constructive for them”. Hmm, gee, that sounds like a… what’s it called? Oh yes, a paradox.

    So either you have no clear idea of what astrology is, or you can not explain it clearly to me. I’m actually guessing both.

    “Just curious, would you apply this thinking to religions as well, who, after all, make potentially more damaging claims? How about life coaches? ”

    We’re not talking about religion, nor life coaches, so my answer has no relevance here. You make it quite clear that astrology can be considered a ‘science’, in that you can track patterns and make predictions based on them. Since there is no actual evidence (ie. not anecdotal data) that astrology *does* work, I am holding your claims to the same level of evidence required of scientific hypotheses that don’t work. I put them in the trash.

    “In any event most astrologers nowadays make their clients understand that astrology is not scientifically verified, if for no other reason than to prevent legal action. ”

    But again, you have quite clearly suggested, implied or otherwise clearly written that astrology *is* scientific. Now you’re just backtracking.

    “Astrologers are not trying to hoodwink their clients into thinking they’re at a science lesson or at a scientifically approved model of study, astrologers are astrologers and are happy to get that across.”

    Well, duh! But they do suggest, imply or otherwise outright state that there *is* an ability to make a prediction based on the movements of the planets. That is the assumption made by people who seek astrological advice. The fact that there is a use of charts and dates, and pretty little diagrams, just maybe, would convince someone that hey, this is all very scientific. Again, this seems to swoosh by your head at great speed. (Quack miranda being exactly that, merely a formality. I have no doubt that those who use astrology, such as yourself, believe that it has some scientific methodology behind it.)

    Funny thing is, that I am open-minded enough on astrology to be convinced by a bloody decent argument and some solid logic. Fact remains, your argument is so muddled, I have no idea *if* it works, let alone *how* it works. You had ample opportunity to make a clear, concrete statement/prediction, and you waffle about how this isn’t the right forum. Well, now no one is around to even notice if you did post a prediction. If I was an astrologer, I’d be wondering if I’d just have wasted my opportunity to convince a whole bunch of skeptics.

    PS. None of what you wrote in answer to Matt shows *how* or *why* looking at a star chart would tell you anything but what kind of person someone is, and what their personality is like. (And who decides what ‘earth’ means, or any other kind of similar term? Who decides which planet correlates with what made-up personality trait? – I don’t consider ‘earth’ to mean anything, and think that perhaps people/personalities are a little more nuanced than a one-word description) Matt points out perfectly well: why don’t you just *ask* the person? Why even bother looking at a star chart?

  213. Paul - Astrology User

    @Matt

    “Obviously you can do the calculations theoretically, without a telescope.”

    In fact you pretty much have to, Tropical (aka Western) Astrology uses a zodiac with equal longitudinal arc per sign beginning at the vernal equinox, as opposed to sidereal (vedic/indian) astrology which purports to use the actual position of the planets in their constellations of the same name which begin at the ‘start’ of the constellation Aries (when they agree upon where that is) and are not of equal length. Curiously sidereal astrology still decide to, from that point onwards, make them equal length. A great deal of the earlier points on this forum should really have been addressed specifically to sidereal astrology because, as is rightly pointed out by skeptics here, precession messes up the zodiac. What the skeptics were not aware of is that western astrology doesn’t use the actual constellations. So basically yeah, you’d have to use an ephemeris, using a telescope won’t help as the constellations in the background are arbitrary and were only meant as mnemonic aids.

    “But all the rest of the features of a chart (houses, aspects, elements, etc) are just cycles on cycles. Which is why I mentioned the Fourier Transform earlier –similar principle: give me an infinite orthonormal basis set and I’ll fit any time series data you want.”

    I know diddly squat about Fourier Transforms, but if you’re suggesting they can allow for the complexity of multiple cycles within one another then sure, go for it. A natal chart is just one way to lay out the information, it’s not the only one by a long shot. Different strokes…

    “Huzzah. Now we have something approaching testability, no?”

    Well I dunno you see, because the very same astrological ‘signature’ COULD mean, not an absent father figure, but an EMOTIONALLY absent father figure, or perhaps a ‘poetic’ father figure (in the case of neptune). This means we cannot know for SURE how that signature is manifested until we verify with the ‘client’ – and YUP that means that as astrologers we could be just using the natal chart as a medium through which to explain and extrapolate what is otherwise just a psychological understanding. This was my point from earlier, the analogy of which was the reference to the character from that novel. I’m definitely happy to accept this as a criticism of astrology. I think this is a good point that all astrologers should try to be aware of lest we create a ‘holy book’ kind of approach to it where planets are practically worshipped and a rigidity of tradition creeps in. Perhaps I am unusual as an astrologer (amateur) in that I keep this distinction and acceptance firmly in mind when I read a chart.

    “Or even just see whether the subject with daddy issues have a higher rate of retrograde sagittarian Jupiters.”

    Yes, this would be interesting. I always felt that studies which examine the sun sign (leos are generous, lets test to see if leos are more generous than scorpio) are completely irrelevant, but the test that you’re purporting has a great deal more relevance. Personally I would like a study or ‘test’ where a number of astrologers (the test should be repeated numerous times by numerous astrologers of varying schools of thought) are given complete access to a patients psychological file and then a natal chart to match to it. Basically, for example, take 10 patients with their psychological ‘file’ (not them themselves to reduce any forer effect) and then 10 natal charts to match to them. I’ve always felt that would be an interesting experiment. It is silly for any astrologer to simply meet someone ask them a few questions and then try to match the chart as has been done in the past. It reveals a great deal of arrogance on the part of the astrologers that they feel they can get past a simple ‘first impression’ like that with just a quick chat. Quite obviously what we reveal to strangers is not always our ‘true self’, we put on a veneer.

    “But then we get the stuff about the lack of earth in Bill Gates’s chart being the reason his life is full of earth. Come on, seriously? Did you really just say that the reason someone is rich and powerful is all the earth signs in their chart… unless it’s the lack of earth signs in their chart? ”

    Ahhh I shouldn’t have mentioned this, or if I had to, should have explained it better. What I was demonstrating is that up until this when we spoke about cycles I was assuming you meant in teh examples of when we spot a planetary aspect and its recurring cycle in the future – the prognostication part that I was suggesting regular psychology does not have the benefit of. Of course if we just looked at those cycles we’d miss looking at the more basic fundamental psychology of the person which is their natal chart by itself (without looking forwards or backwards in time). With that in mind I was showing how it is not just the planetary positions which astrologers use, it is other things like the elemental balances in the chart – true they are calculated by the planetary positions but they require all the planets rather than just one or two. Now if your transform mentioned above calculates this, then sure go for it, I probably misunderstood you about it.
    As for the earth part itself, you need to remove any ‘fate’ or ‘this is who you are’ mentalities that you may have about astrology. Remember the other thigns I’ve said about astrology as I PERSONALLY see it. I am not suggesting that having earth or not having earth makes on a millionaire. Ther eis no such thing as fate. This is probably something I should have focused on before, it’s important to clear your mind of those astrological assumptions that astrology ‘reads your future’ or ‘tells you your fate’ or any of that nonsense. Revert it back to being a psychological tool. In this tool we have basic archetypal ideas like ‘earth’ referring to the material realities – our bodies, food, money, houses etc etc. Someone with no earth in their chart lacks this internal balance. That’s all we can say. What they do with that internal lack is up to them. However like with anything (this is very obvious in psychological terms so again its best to keep thinking this way) we can tend to overcompensate for the things we’re lacking in. That can get materialised as a strong drive to ‘fill that hole’. As another example the aspect pattern (interplanetary configuration) called a grand trine is three planets in ‘easy’ aspect to one another, it doesn’t form much stress or friction, it is easy to have. However because it doesn’t form much stress it often means that the ease of it doesn’t lend itself well to outward productivity. When we’re internally comfortable we tend not to set out to ‘achieve’ or change the environment. But T-squares (another aspect pattern) are more stress or ‘friction’ inducing and so people with t-squares, although being less mentally and emotionally calm and stable as the grand trine, tend to find themselves more productive or at least externally manifestable. There is a desire and a ‘motive’ for making a change or achieving something.
    The reason I’m mentioning all this is to show how the examples of ‘every X years, this will happen” become irrelevant here, if we are to use a formula of some kind it must incorporate the WHOLE chart and not just one planet.

    Btw I’ll keep checking on this forum as often as I can and as long as we’re both still okay with continuing this conversation. Personally I enjoy discussing issues with someone of a totally different outlook to myself, sketpics are of course the perfect antidote to astrological thought. It’s good and it’s interesting to engage with people who think and see things differently to you so thank you for engaging with me. It’s good to know that two people of opposing viewpoints can sit down together and discuss where each is coming from without resorting to insulting one another or putting on a ‘show’ of superiorioty by either side. Astrologers have irritating habit of thinking that anyone who doesn’t agree with them must be somehow closed minded and mentally dull. Skeptics can have irritating habit of assuming astrologers also believe in magic fairy dust or are intellectually inferior. Thanks for keeping this completely civil and rational – a true debate rather than an excuse for name calling. It’s refreshing!

  214. Paul - Astrology User

    @flip

    “nothing to convince me astrology works”

    Ah, but I’m not trying to convince you astrology works. I’m just explaining what I think about astrology and whilst doing so hoping to dispel some of the myths about what astrology is and is not. It remains to be seen whether I have, in any way, been successful or not. As I said to another poster, you don’t NEED to use astrology, your life will be no less the rich for not using it. I happen to find it endlessly fascinating, but then other people find collecting stamps endlessly fascinating.

    “If nothing else, you’ve simply reduced your argument to sophistry and a cover for cold reading”

    How can you cold read without seeing the person or intereacting with them in anyway whatsoever? My posts are admittedly long, and there have been many posts in this forum, but I have addressed this already in response to Mat T in #190 where I say “I think what you mean to imply was do you need to have some pretension of psyhic ability or even see the person, the answer is no, you do not”. In other words armed with just a natal chart and nothing else whatsoever you could start your astrological reading. Another analogy would be that a psychologist could start drawing up inferrenes from a case file which detailed the facts about someones life and the emotional difficulties that they may suggest, however it only becomes useful when you enter into rapport with the person themselves. We do not suggest that pscyhologists do cold readings, they allow their psychology to lead them and astrologers allow their astrology to lead them just as much. I’d be wary (read:stay away from) any astrologer who claims to ‘predict’ your fate. Having studied astrology, it cannot be done. We have free will. Hopefully that puts to rest this cold reading idea. Cold readers deliberately set out to ‘fool’ their clients, whislt I am not saying there are not astrologers out there who do that (there are charlatans everywhere after all), I am saying that actually astrologers on a whole do not do this. They may, of course, be just fooling themselves, but for the most part they are not willfully fooling their clients.

    “But again, you have quite clearly suggested, implied or otherwise clearly written that astrology *is* scientific.”

    Can you show me where? There is of course a scientific ‘element’ to astrology and that’s because astrology is based on an observable scientific phenomena – the solar system – and by proxy the astronomical elements of it. However I believe I have stated quite clearly that I do not know or have any opinion on any underlying SCIENCE behind astrology’s efficacy. In simpler terms I have no idea/opinion/belief/understanding about how astrology might work if it indeed does work, however whether or not it does work, we can still calculate planetary positions and cycles accurately because we have the astronomy to do that. As for whether any assumptions made after that are relevant I have NO IDEA. I believe that they are useful obviously and that they are relevant, but I do not KNOW that they are in the objective scientific sense. So I have no idea where you’re getting the idea that I have stated that it is scientific. I can only assume that you made certain assumptions about what I have said or would believe.

    “Funny that you mention astrologers studying psychology; in my last year of high school, in our psychology subject, we learned all about astrology. And how it was absolute crap. ”

    So? I don’t recall saying that psychologists recommend astrology anywhere. I’m simply acknowledging that many astrologers who I know have a training in a psychological background AS WELL. You’ll forgive me of course if I suggest that your last year of high school is not particualrly reputable anyway so I’m not sure what you’re trying to suggest by saying that a high school teacher doesn’t believe in astrology. Who cares?

    “Since there is no actual evidence (ie. not anecdotal data) that astrology *does* work, I am holding your claims to the same level of evidence required of scientific hypotheses that don’t work.”

    Who said astrology doesn’t work? If a scientific hypothesis has evidence and proof of its claim it is not a hypothesis anymore, it’s a scientific fact. Similarly when we prove that it doesn’t work, then it is no longer a ‘hypothesis’, it is discarded. This is not true for astrology as you have not searched for the evidence to prove that it does or does not work. Lack of evidence of something does not mean that something doesn’t work, science doesn’t work this way. It searches for evidence and if there is none simply states that there is no evidence that it works. If it finds evidene that it doesn’t work it says that it doesnt’ work. Contrast this to your comment that if there is no evidence than it is a hypothesis that doesn’t work – not logically sound.

    “But they do suggest, imply or otherwise outright state that there *is* an ability to make a prediction based on the movements of the planets.”

    No they don’t. They outright state or imply that they BELIEVE that there is an ability and that if you do too then you can go to them and they’ll tell you what they believe it means. Astrologers do not go around pretending that astrology can tell the future. This isn’t the 18th century anymore. Unfortunately there is no astrological governing body to stop ppl making these claims and undoubtedly you’ll find someone who DOES make those claims but there’s nothing we can do, we cannot stop them, anyone can make any claim they like, but in doing so they harm the reputation of all the other astrologers.

    “The fact that there is a use of charts and dates, and pretty little diagrams, just maybe, would convince someone that hey, this is all very scientific.”

    It’s hardly the fault of the astrologer what other people think is it? They NEED those diagrams and charts to do what they do, that other people think something else completely is not their fault, they’re not out to try to fool people into thinking they’re scientists. In any event, I’ve yet to meet anyone who wasn’t fully aware that astrology isn’t part of scientific academia. It’s worrying though that you are suggesting that if someone sees a chart that they just asssume that it’s something deeply scientific. I can do a chart on excel on my favorite brands of icecream, I’d hate to think that someone who saw it would think that there is an objective scale of icecream preference.

    “Fact remains, your argument is so muddled, I have no idea *if* it works, let alone *how* it works.”

    Actually that’s not muddled, in fact it’s crystal clear.

    “You had ample opportunity to make a clear, concrete statement/prediction, and you waffle about how this isn’t the right forum. Well, now no one is around to even notice if you did post a prediction.”

    Huh!? Are you still talking to me? What are you talking about predictions and forums for? I’m here making all this in THIS forum. There are other forums that are better suited to this conversation than this one but I’m still here not making any excuses for the forum nor pretending to make any predictions. Do you mean to address this to Matthew?

    “If I was an astrologer, I’d be wondering if I’d just have wasted my opportunity to convince a whole bunch of skeptics.”

    Why would you think I came here to convince other people about astrology? If I came to convince anybody of anything it is to hopefully try to dispel the unpleasant notion that astrologers are willfully and purposefully setting out to rob ppl of their money by using cold reading techniques. That’s just not hte case. Astrologers genuinely believe in what they do, that’s not to say that what they do actually works, but they do genuinely believe it does so the notion that they’re scam artists trying to rope in the vulnerable is simply very very unfair to them and not at all reflective of what they’re trying to achieve. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to earn a living from astrology but astrologers on a whole make sweet F-A. Those that do it professionally barely make enough to survive. The only exception to this are the ones who work in the media like in newspapers. NOrmally astrologers also have a ‘day job’ that helps actually pay the bills. If I wanted to convince anyone of anything it is that contrary to popular belief astrologers are not just greedy charlatans. Apart from that I’m not out to convince anyone of anything, just to have my own views challenged by opposing views to my own, I’ve found it one of the best ways to learn and I love learning. Debates interest me as long as they’re held civialy.

  215. Social Climber

    @Paul You are too naive to be real.

    I am an amateur astrologer, who does not publish in a newspaper or work for a TV station (yet). However, I admit I am practising astrology for purely cynical reasons because I love the power it gives me over gullible and dull-minded fools like you.

    Pity you’re not a girlie. Then I might try and convince you that your stars are predicting you will meet a ginger haired man who you must sleep with otherwise dire things will happen to you or your mum.

    But you are not so believe me when I say: You want to go home and rethink your life.

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