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February 16, 2005


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Hello Richard,
I enjoy your blog, and was especially delighted with this entry, as it speaks directly to an argument I recently had with someone. I have linked to this article from an entry in my blog here: http://journals.aol.ca/plittle/AuroraWalkingVacation/entries/971
I hope that is ok with you.

Hi Paul:

Glad you liked the article. Please link all you want.

Btw, I liked the article on your site about “spirit photography”. I’ll write a brief post about this later and link to your photos.


Excellent summary of astrology research. In a way it's sad that so much time has been spent investigating nonsense like this, and it's even sadder that astrologers won't listen.

I know of one study that you didn't mention. The abstract is here.

This study was abused by some astrologers who claimed it vindicated astrology when of course it does nothing of the kind. What it showed is that people are willing to incorporate astrological predictions of personality into their concept of self. They also found that daily and monthly forecasts have no validity.

Thanks – I’ll add it to my list.

I’ve noticed that people use their supposed astrological “traits” to excuse bad behavior (“I can never make a decision because I’m a Libra” etc), instead of trying to change. Their personality is to an extent formed around what astrology tells them it should be. It’s one of the reasons people believe astrology works.

what an unpopular blog -- I make the 5th person here. WOW

Er, check the site meter in the left hand colunm Einstein.

It seems that the "Skeptical Inquirer" is as guilty of bad science as the astrologers it seeks to disprove.

It is very true that Michel Gauquelin failed to find any connection between sports champions and Sun, Moon or Ascendant sign. He did, however, and completely against his expectations, discover a positive correlation between sports champions and Mars on an angle (Ascendant, Descendant, MC or IC).

The question is still open as to how significant this correlation is - and there are good arguments on both sides of the debate. However, to conveniently ignore this piece of evidence does no service to science.

The word "sceptic" correctly means someone who is open minded. Sadly, it is often used to describe a mindset that has a particular agenda, and means "anti" (I live in the UK - and the term "Eurosceptic" here doesn't mean someone who is open minded about the European Union, but someone who is strongly against it; the Skeptical Inquirer seem to have the same concept of the word).

Chris, I honestly hope you are one of the "fence-sitters" (the people we are trying to help) when it comes to the paranormal, so please excuse my blunt approach.

Correlation proves shit, and does not prove causation. If I found a group of 50 people with severe back pain, and they all had a quarter in their pocket, would that prove anything? That's why real scientists, armed with this and the knowledge of selection bias, shoehorning, and especially confirmation bias pay no attention to this person's "correlations". I'd be willing to wager that if you took every sports champion ever born, no more than chance would be born under a Mars angle. Heck, research it yourself, you could win a million bucks. I read some of the "data" on this case, and would love to show you how easy it is to take a group of people and find a commonality, similar to my brief example. I bet Skeptico already has...

Again, hopefully you haven't made up your mind. Read some more articles on this site and click the links. There are different kinds of skeptics, but readers here are scientific skeptics. We ask for proof, evidence; stuff that is not full of fallacious information. Astrology tried, according to this article, 36 or more times. Let's put it to rest and just say it doesn't work.

As you point out, here was considerable doubt about the significance of the correlation, especially since the selection criteria for the “champions” to be included, and their actual correct time of birth, were both in doubt. The result has never been replicated (in fact I believe similar studies in other countries found no correlation), and IIRC the original data have been lost. It’s true that CSICOP made a mess of investigating it, but that doesn’t validate the study, nor does it invalidate the numerous other studies that show astrology doesn’t work.

Don’t you think it’s rather pathetic that after all these years and many studies, the only thing believers in astrology can point to is a dubious, non-replicated study relating to a small aspect (sports stars and the position of mars) of this supposedly all encompassing, detailed and specific fortune telling system?

Astrological Predictions -

Let's see if there is anything to this astrology stuff. Being curious I purchased ($2.00) an astrology program at a garage sale.
The program made two predictions.
1) During the last two weeks of November 2005 the U.S. economy, including the stock market and housing market, is going to experience a MAJOR and lasting and severe (many months) downward spiral.
So, if I believed this I would houseclean my stock portfolio NOW and sell off any stock that I have held for one year or more. I would then repurchase stock after the last two weeks in November 2005 at a great savings.
2) Some of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's DARK SECRETS regarding the CIA leak and/or the falsified Weapons of Mass Destruction fabrications will come to light on December 10th through December 16th 2005.

Let's use these two astrological predictions to test this astrological stuff and see if I got my monies worth ($2.00) at the garage sale.

At a young age I began asking people their signs and that of their spouses/friends. There is a definite pattern, as in same elements attracting, and also fire/air and water/earth matches. Also the people I gravitate toward are mainly, though not exclusively, of particular signs. I've come across many people who can't consider astrology in any way as though it is a threat of some kind to even look at it at all. I have not studied astrology beyond what I have described here so have no opinion as to the validity of it's use in predictions, though I do find the idea to be extremely disconcerting at the least. Of course, horoscopes found in the newspaper or written per sign, are absolutely ridiculous and are only for fun.
As for the studies noted above, I find them very interesting though no one will ever convince me there is nothing to astrology. To me it is quite obvious. I see no point to arguing the matter, as it's my experience that there are some who are open to it and others who are just completely blind to it, for whatever reason, choice or personality. I enjoy guessing peoples signs after getting to know them over a period of weeks or sometimes longer. Usually I narrow it down to 2-3 signs, but often I have guessed the first time. I do see that astrology would be very difficult to prove as a science, with all the factors to consider including life experiences. I would never have expected some of the studies described to be able to prove anything. Whether a science or not, it is not a belief, it's real.

Carl wrote:

"no one will ever convince me there is nothing to astrology"

There we have demonstrated the mentality of the closed minded believer: nothing could ever convince him astrology is nonsense. Nothing!

Carl, astrology is nonsense you are just completely blind to it, for whatever reason, choice or personality.

I blindly believed that medical research was not nonsense and that science proved that low-fat diets prevented heart disease and stroke. On 8 February 2006 The New York Times reports: Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds.

Now this kind of study goes on and on contradicting each other about healthy diets. Shall I conclude that medical research is at the same level as astrology? Seems like it.

I wouldn't trust the New York Times. Read the study itself. The media loves to take any dietary studies and distort them into an excuse for people to keep their unhealthy lifestyles.

Once read somewhere on www.stats.org that one newspaper took a creative interpretation of a study to say that healthy diets don't prevent certain problems. Well, they neglected to mention that the risk did go down, but they took an absolutist view of the word "prevent" to mean zero probability. Since the healthy lifestyle wasn't perfect (just merely better), they decided it was worthless, the exact opposite of the study's conclusions.


Re: Now this kind of study goes on and on contradicting each other about healthy diets. Shall I conclude that medical research is at the same level as astrology? Seems like it.

No. For one – read the study. It does not say eating a high fat diet is OK.

More importantly, this is just a lame fallacious appeal to “science was wrong before”: just a smoke screen to disguise the fact that there is no evidence astrology works (more correctly – there is virtual proof it does not work). It does not follow that science should not be applied to evaluate claims of astrology, or that nonsense like astrology is likely to be true.

In addition, we know astrology’s provenance: it was just made up. Things “made up” are unlikely to be true. Unlike high fat diets, where we have a tested mechanism that explain why they might be bad.

I am closing this post to comments. In nearly a year no one has come up with any valid criticisms of this post, nor presented any valid evidence that there is anything to astrology, just the same old “be open minded”, or “science doesn’t know everything” lame rationalizations. If anyone thinks they have some astonishing insight into this subject that I have missed they may click the link in the left hand column and email me. If it contains anything of interest I may publish it. Try and make it of a higher standard than Leon's comment though or you may wish you hadn’t bothered.

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