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June 24, 2007

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These comments have been prompted by recent YouTube videos posted by "Astrologer" James Young (http://www.youtube.com/user/JamesYoung764) who attempts, rather lamely I might add, to "debunk the debunking" of astrology.

Nice to see you posting again.

Paul:

Thanks for linking that – typically lame. Actually even more lame than usual.

His criticisms:

1) Someone resigned from Carlson’s team. (So what?)

2) CPI not meant to be interpreted by astrologers. (But then why did the astrologers recommend using it?)

3) Carlson a magician – a “smoke and mirrors guy - therefore there is the implication he cheats. But no evidence that he did.

That’s it. Still no reason to suppose astrology works.

Ah yes, replace the word "astrology" with almost any other pseudoscience and you have the boilerplate argument. The problem is always this, if it's not testable how can it be repeatable? If it's not repeatable how can it be testable? Repeatability indicates a method of action - non-repeatability may indicate something unique, however, it could point further down the empirical data set to something else. Something repeatable!

Woohoo! Skeptico is back!

nothing else to add here.

"the burden of proof is clearly with astrologers to demonstrate that astrology can pass a test to demonstrate that it works, not with skeptics to show it doesn’t."

You know that, I know that, anyone doing honest science knows that. Woo-slingers probably also know that, but will *never* admit it.

I've said this before in other places, but it keeps coming up:

In science, the null hypothesis is not a belief. It is the default position.

If none of the identified methods of determining personality traits are adequate, either due to lack of self-awareness, lack of knowledge of the subject, non-repeatable results etc, then it just indicates that "personality trait" is too fuzzy a concept for any "science" (ie Astrology) to have developed a way of predicting.

If none of the identified methods of determining personality traits are adequate, either due to lack of self-awareness, lack of knowledge of the subject, non-repeatable results etc, then it just indicates that "personality trait" is too fuzzy a concept for any "science" (ie Astrology) to have developed a way of predicting.

Please don't use the word "science", however dressed up in quotes, that close to "astrology", dcardno! ;)

I'm actually no fan of psychoanalysis, either, which also claims to be a science but is based on what seems to me to be a series of dubious anecdotes.

However, I do believe there are sciences of the mind such as clinical psychology and psychopharmacy, which do at least seem to have verifiable successes.

I stumbled upon this site looking for info on the pseudo science documentary What the Bleep... and found the analysis to be spot on.

But, please. Astrology bashing *again*? Ever since Sagan refused to sign the anti-astrology manifesto you'd think this would be a toucy subject for a skeptic who links to CSICOP!

Ahem, that organization has been thoroughly discredited - are you paying lip service to them? Why not simply be a true skeptic and shed the dogmatists such as that investigative organization which does not publish proper investigations in journals? Well, there was that one that didn't pan out...

Ah, Satan sees Natasha.

conradbrean:

Fascinating rant. But do you have any evidence astrology works? Or don't you?

Indeed, conradbrean, what ARE you talking about? What is your beef with CSI(COP)? If that's the organization you claim to be "thoroughly discredited," would you please explain why you claim this? I have never heard of any serious criticisms of the organization before.


~David D.G.

I'd like to point out, first of all, that I see no reason for astrology of any kind to work, and haven't seen any good explanations for how it works, nor any evidence that it does. Thus, I find its claims dubious, at best.
That being said, it is possible that neither option is correct. It could be, for example, that there is an astrological influence, that the planets and stars have a direct effect on us, but not in the way that modern astrologers think. It doesn't make much sense, and still has no credible evidence or even explanations, but as an alternative hypothesis, astrologers might be just going about it all wrong.
Just a thought. I still think it's bunk.

Richard/Skeptico: Do you know if the astrologers that participated in the Nature study became convinced that what they had so far defended is BS? I sure hope so (although I'm not very optimistic about it).

Ribozyme:

Carlson is quoted in the Skeptical Inquirer, saying:

"I have not yet received a serious scientific challenge to the paper. The newsletter of the American Federation of Astrologers Network published a response in January (1986). I was very disappointed to see that it largely consists of personal attacks. Its few substantive criticisms are attributable to ignorance of the experiment, of the CPI, and of basic scientific methodology."

So no, they weren't convinced, they just rationalized away astrology's complete failure.

As I wrote before, of all the woo beliefs, astrology seems the most persistent, the most resistant to evidence, and the most frustrating to debate with believers. I am reminded of Randi’s unsinkable rubber ducks - no amount of contrary evidence will ever un-convince the true believer in astrology. Just click on the You-Tube link linked above by Paul, or read the comment by conradbrean - they're completely resistant to evidence or logic.

Very interesting post. I'll probably think of additional comments later - it often takes a fair bit of time and effort for me to come up with worthwhile-seeming things to say.

I guess I'll just start with a reply to Skeptico's comment and Jimmy_Blue's comment from the other thread... or, actually, I guess I'll start by replying briefly to some comments from this current thread:

Paul wrote:

These comments have been prompted by recent YouTube videos posted by "Astrologer" James Young (http://www.youtube.com/user/JamesYoung764) who attempts, rather lamely I might add, to "debunk the debunking" of astrology.

Hmm, thanks for the link. Actually, those videos didn't prompt my comments. I had never heard of James Young until you posted that link, and I don't believe I ever even watched a YouTube video related to astrology until now. Of course, I have no way to prove that... :-)

The only thing that prompted my comments was reading Skeptico's very interesting blog post, and feeling like replying to it. :-)

I've been reading this blog for about two years now (ever since Skeptico replied to me in a comment on the Bad Astronomy Blog; the name I used there was "Blahhh").


Skeptico wrote:

Thanks for linking that – typically lame.

Yes, rather. He didn't even question the accuracy of the CPI, which seems to me like one of the best arguments.

His criticisms:

1) Someone resigned from Carlson’s team. (So what?)

I transcribed the quote where Young refers to that:

"Now, two things that Carlson conveniently forgot to mention. Firstly, a member of his team resigned, and the reason she gave was that she felt that the test was heavily biased towards the negative. In other words, the odds were stacked against the astrologer. And this was a scientist."

I guess he's just trying to show that not just astrologers, but even a scientist (whose opinion is presumably more credible than astrologers), objected for some reason to how the test was being conducted.

I guess I do find that a somewhat interesting point, actually. I wonder what exactly she thought was wrong, and why no one else on the team agreed with her enough to also resign.

2) CPI not meant to be interpreted by astrologers. (But then why did the astrologers recommend using it?)

Maybe they just didn't know any better... :-)

3) Carlson a magician – a “smoke and mirrors guy - therefore there is the implication he cheats. But no evidence that he did.

Yes, that definitely doesn't seem like much of an argument.

That’s it. Still no reason to suppose astrology works.

Agreed.


John Marley quoted Skeptico:

"the burden of proof is clearly with astrologers to demonstrate that astrology can pass a test to demonstrate that it works, not with skeptics to show it doesn’t."

John Marley replied:

You know that, I know that, anyone doing honest science knows that. Woo-slingers probably also know that, but will *never* admit it.

Hmm... well, you could always ask some. You might find that many astrologers are more reasonable than you think.

I don't know if I count as an "astrologer" precisely. Well, I guess maybe I do, since I suppose I know more about astrology than is quite seemly and respectable, and depending on the company I'm keeping and how much I'm holding my tongue about my doubts, I can easily pass for a "believer". :-)

But, in any case, astrologer or not, I completely agree that what Skeptico said in that quote. And a lot of other things Skeptico says, naturally... :-)


Brendan wrote:

That being said, it is possible that neither option is correct. It could be, for example, that there is an astrological influence, that the planets and stars have a direct effect on us, but not in the way that modern astrologers think.

A lot of astrologers don't consider it to be an "influence" at all - many think that the planets, stars, etc., and their positions simply symbolically correlate with what goes on in people's lives, rather than actually cause or influence what goes on.

Many astrologers think it has something to do with C. G. Jung's concept of "synchronicity". Explaining woo with woo, perhaps... :-)

(My reply, using the name Blahhh, to the Bad Astronomy Blog, which I already linked to above, contains some more details on this topic).

It doesn't make much sense, and still has no credible evidence or even explanations, but as an alternative hypothesis, astrologers might be just going about it all wrong.

Seems quite possible.

Just a thought. I still think it's bunk.

Yes. As for me - my official standpoint until sufficient hard evidence comes to light is that it's probably bunk (but it might not be).

Admittedly, my irrational emotional feeling about it is that it might not be the complete rubbish that I originally always thought it was (which is the only reason I spend so much time on it, and it's one of my favorite hobbies).

But, nonetheless, I still am far from convinced that it definitely really works, and it's not just some kind of illusion.

Skeptico replied to me in the other thread:

Thanks again for actually answering the question I asked.

You're welcome... :-)

The test was devised and run by astrologers recommended by the National Council for Geocosmic Research for their expertise in astrology and in their ability to use the CPI.

Thanks, I overlooked that before.

I guess I can't criticize that by asking "What does the National Council of Geocosmic Research know about who has expertise in astrology?", because that organization actually _is_ an astrological organization.

Then again, I guess I _could_ ask that. :-) Without knowing anything much about them, I don't necessarily think they have the expertise to judge who has expertise in astrology.

Unfortunately, though, given how astrology itself hasn't been shown to have validity, there's certainly no objective way to determine who has genuine expertise in astrology.

Hmm, here's another possible loophole for defenders of astrology to exploit - "They weren't competent astrologers, so their failure doesn't count against the validity of astrology".

The CPI was chosen by the astrologers “because the advising astrologers judged the CPI attributes to be closest to those discernable by astrology.” (“Nature” page 420.)

Hmm... maybe the CPI attributes _are_ the closest of all available personality tests (I wouldn't know).

But if the CPI's scoring system is so faulty that the scores for the various attributes are way off - or even if they're accurate, but the test still fails to convey a clear idea of someone's personality to the person reading the results - I doubt the CPI is of much use in a test like this.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if the astrologers possibly totally wrongly believed they were getting a clear idea of a person's personality from the CPI results - they even possibly totally wrongly believe they get a clear idea of a person's personality from astrological charts.

Even if the CPI is not 100% accurate, you would still expect results more accurate than chance.

Well, maybe, as long it's not _too_ much less than 100% accurate. (What "too much" would be, I'm not sure).

The “pure chance” results from this test show that either the CPI or astrology (or both) are no better than chance.

Agreed.

Are you saying astrology has validity but the CPI is no better than random chance? That doesn’t sound like the most parsimonious explanation.

Hmm, I _hope_ I didn't say or imply that anywhere... :-) My mistake if I did - it was unintentional.

I just am doubtful, since I have no knowledge of any studies done to determine the validity of the CPI, that the CPI is necessarily any better than random chance.

I wrote:

Actually, it occurs to me that trying to judge which of three people matches a certain CPI test result by observing the three people first-hand might be a worthwhile test in itself - to see if the CPI is actually providing any kind of a genuine, recognizable picture of the behavior and tendencies of the people tested.

Skeptico replied:

Here you are testing the ability of someone to determine a person’s personality just by observing them, as well as testing the CPI.

Hmm, yes, I totally overlooked that... :-)

Well, I guess that just means, if the person fails to guess the correct person more frequently than chance, then, it either means the CPI is invalid, _or_ the person can't determine people's personalities just by observing them. So, failure wouldn't totally invalidate the CPI.

But if the person guesses the correct person more frequently than chance, then, it might confirm that the CPI is valid.

Unless the person is only guessing correctly due to having psychic powers. Haha, just kidding. :-)

So, unless I'm missing something, it still seems to me as though it might be a good way to possibly demonstrate the validity of the CPI, even though failure wouldn't necessarily be evidence of its invalidity.

For this to be valid you would have to demonstrate that astrologers could select the accurate description of the subject from two controls, just based on looking at their artwork, observing them, or whatever.

Well, the test I suggested in my paragraph above was only of the CPI, not astrology, so anyone (not just an astrologer) could try to guess which person out of three matches a CPI test result.

I guess probably your comment here refers to the similar test of astrology I proposed. Or... maybe it's something different. I'm a bit confused, sorry. What does "two controls" mean here?

And it would have to be impossible for the astrologers to communicate with the subject – to obtain natal information about them by other means.

That's fine. I think interaction with the subjects is probably totally unnecessary, since I've seemingly had some success guessing features of the astrological charts of people I've seen on TV or in movies.

Whether this success should be attributed to astrology working, I'm not sure... :-) I've taken various horribly messy and often vague notes over time, but I haven't sifted through them all yet to count up how many hits and misses I've gotten, etc., etc., so, I'm not really sure what to make of it.


I sometimes have made accurate guesses at things like specific astrological aspects people might have.

Sun square Pluto, for instance - an aspect which occurs in approximately 10% of all charts, using a 9 degree "orb"/margin of error from an exact aspect of 90°. (And the percentage of charts that aspect occurs in is even smaller if you use a smaller "orb"/margin of error. Some astrologers would consider a 9° orb too much, but I think all would agree that at least 4° or less is acceptable).

Without my notes on hand, this is based on memory, but, I once set out to try to think of various actors in movies I had seen who seemed like they could have sun square Pluto (i.e., seemed magnetic, charismatic, scary, etc.).

I think I had just watched a movie and correctly guessed that the villain in it had sun square Pluto, and this success encouraged me to try to see if I could think of any other actors I had seen who seemed like they might have that aspect.

I think I made something like 5 or 6 different guesses after that first correct guess, naming actors who I thought might have sun square Pluto, and out of those, at least two were correct. One actor I guessed had Venus square Pluto rather than sun square Pluto, another actor had sun quincunx Pluto rather than sun square Pluto. (The quincunx is thought to be a difficult aspect, but not as difficult as a square).

I can't remember if my very next guess after my first guess was correct or not - might've been, can't remember. Wish I could find my notes.

In any case, though, I clearly recall that my second correct guess was based on the fact that that actor reminded me of a different actor who I already knew had sun square Pluto.

And a rather weird thing about that second correct guess was, that actor turned out to be born 3 days away from the birthday of the actor who had reminded me of that actor, and they were born less than a year apart from each other. (That is, they were almost the same age and almost shared a birthday).

Both had their sun and Pluto not only square, but in the same signs, and around the same spots in the zodiac. So, in light of all that (the similarities in the charts, and the fact that they almost shared a birthday and were almost the same age), it seemed especially bizarre that the two of them somehow seemed reminiscent of each other to me.

Someday I should go through my notes more carefully - if my old computer hadn't broken down I'd still have them readily at hand. All I know is I have them on a backup CD somewhere (except for the ones from late 2006 up to Jul. 2007).

Actually, though, my notes are a horrible mess and I often have been disappointed when looking back at them to see how vague and waffling many of my statements were. But I'm quite definite that I got at least those two sun square Pluto guesses exactly right... :-)


A couple years back, I spent some time browsing a Russian mail-order bride website which featured profiles of various women, with pictures, some small bios apparently written by the women themselves, and, best of all, their birthdates. :-)

I went through about 15-20 profiles before I got bored. I covered up the screen so I couldn't see their birthday, looked at their picture, often read their self-description, and noted down various guesses (and saved their profile so I could look back at it at some future date, when I hoped to sift through all my notes and try to sort out how many hits and misses there were, and how likely or unlikely they were, etc.).

Then, I finally let myself look at their birthdate and check out their chart. And, I don't recall many specifics, but, I recall at times I did seem to get things right, or at least, almost right - like with one, I guessed based on her picture that she looked like an Aries, but in fact she was a Taurus with Venus in Aries.

I think I also made a guess about one having a lot of stuff in earth signs in her chart, which turned out to be correct (but I think I guessed the wrong earth signs and totally missed the one it actually was).


However, the most remarkable guess I made, which I clearly remember because it was so specific and so exactly correct, was one I made toward the end.

Based on a picture alone, without even reading anything she wrote, I felt utterly certain, just on sight, seconds after first seeing her picture, that the woman whose artistically-stylized picture I was looking at had sun in Aquarius square Uranus in Scorpio.

I clicked the link to go to her profile, and found to my utter astonishment, I was exactly correct - and the aspect had a pretty small orb (margin of error), as well (I don't recall what exactly the orb was, sorry).

I still haven't figured out precisely how unlikely it was that I could have gotten that guess correct just based on random chance alone.

I might have had some vague idea of her approximate age (especially since I had arrived at some, though not all, of the profiles I made guesses about, from a screen with the profiles sorted by year of birth), so knowing she likely had Uranus in Scorpio was nothing special, at least.

If I'm not mistaken, sun square Uranus with a 9° orb is about as common as sun square Pluto with a 9° orb, around 10% of all charts. I guess (but am not sure) there's probably a 1 in 12 or 8.3% chance that anyone will have a particular sun sign.


Anyhow, though, the success I've sometimes seemed to have making guesses like the above, as well as some astrologers' claims that it's easier to pick out the "strongest things in a person's chart" rather than some arbitrary feature like a sun sign, long ago gave me ideas for other possible tests.

Namely, tests which don't involve matching whole charts to various people, but which instead involve guessing at specific aspects or other chart features that a person they're observing (even if only on TV, in a movie, or a still picture and some text written by them) might have in their chart.

If astrology works, perhaps it wouldn't be _that_ hard to beat the odds, such as by, for instance, getting more than 10 out of every 100 guesses correct about people with sun square Pluto - judging by how I got at least 2 out of like 5 or 6 guesses correct about various actors (unless I'm misremembering, which is quite possible, without my notes on hand), or possibly 33.33% correct, rather than the expected approximate 10%.

Here's one astrologer's article which illustrates the claim that it's easier to discern the strongest things in a person's chart rather than something like their sun sign: An interesting stranger by Ray Murphy.

If I could summarize – you are saying the CPI might not be accurate.

Correct... :-)

I suppose that could be true, but I don’t think your proposal for examining the person's own original writing, artwork, music, acting etc would be any better, and most likely would be less accurate.

Well, it wouldn't be perfect, but, I still think it would be better than the CPI, at the very least. Certainly, for someone who can barely understand the CPI (like me).

Also, this method would be open to sensory leakage – other ways to match the charts.

Yes, could be. What kinds of sensory leakage exactly?

This is an interesting topic and I have just written a more detailed post to examine it in more detail.

Excellent... :-)

As I said before, I may think of some more replies later on. You make many excellent points (as usual!). :-)

I wrote:

I think I made something like 5 or 6 different guesses after that first correct guess, naming actors who I thought might have sun square Pluto, and out of those, at least two were correct.

Err, umm, sorry... :-) I muddled this a bit.

2 total correct guesses out of something like 5-6, or maybe 7 guesses total, though I'm really not precisely sure how many I made.

(Without my notes, I am not at all sure of all the specifics, except for definitely getting those two guesses correct).

So, only one guess, not two guesses as I mistakenly stated above, after my first correct guess, was correct.

Yes, I know this is feeble and an anecdote, but I thought it was interesting anyhow. I wish I had more specifics, but without my notes, I don't. Sorry... :-(

Replying to Jimmy_Blue's post in the other thread:

I wrote:

Maybe a range of days, or weeks, or perhaps even longer (if they're basing their prediction/guess on a slow outer planet transit).

Jimmy_Blue replied:

In all honesty then, what use is it?

No terribly practical use, needless to say... :-) I can't think of one off-hand, at least.

So are you saying that different astrologers would give different results given the same data, because they may not use the same techniques?

It's possible. And actually, some might give different results using the same data using the _same_ technique (such as looking at transits), if they aren't thorough in looking at all the ongoing transits, and focus on some, and ignore others.

For instance, if one astrologer focuses on transiting Saturn square someone's sun but fails to pay any attention to transiting Neptune opposition that person's Venus, while another astrologer focuses on transiting Neptune opposition that person's Venus, and neglects to notice transiting Saturn square that person's sun - the two astrologers will each probably give very different predictions.

And an astrologer who takes both into account might give a different prediction than both of them, in an effort to try to blend the two, and perhaps reconcile the contradictions between the meanings of those aspects.

Again, what use is it then, and how do we know which is the more trustworthy prediction?

Well, I think the typical approach of astrologers is to consider them both valid (although some just don't even bother with progressions). If two things contradict each other, I think you're expected to use your imagination to blend them together in some "plausible" way.

So, if you have progressed Mars opposition sun, perhaps suggesting a long-term phase of being rather energetic, argumentative, aggressive, competitive, forthright and direct, etc., but then you have transiting Neptune conjunct sun, which might suggest a phase of being a bit sluggish, spaced out, dreamy, confused, confusing, deceived, deceptive, waffling and indirect, artistic, unrealistic, idealistic, escapist, interested in spiritual/"woo" sorts of things, prone to addiction, extremely sensitive, etc., maybe it would be possible to blend the two (as well as the meanings of the sun in astrology - one's ego, etc.) to get an interpretation like:

"You may find yourself drifting into many pointless battles and competitions, dissipating a lot of energy on them, and maybe deluding yourself that you're getting something really worthwhile done when in fact, it's not getting you any closer to your goals. At this time you may have a very touchy ego and may be very sensitive to any slight or imagined slight, which may cause you to pick fights with people.

You may be preoccupied with heroic fantasies, like becoming a war hero, or a sports hero, being admired for various fabulous victories, or your physical strength, or other shows of prowess. You might become addicted to exercise or working out, but you're more likely to lack the discipline to stick to it enough for it to do much good. You might be tempted to use steroids or other illicit or farfetched shortcuts or quackery in your efforts to model yourself into some kind of athletic ideal."

I don't know if astrologers would consider that valid or not... :-) I just made it up - I had to, since I don't have any books that tell you exactly how you should blend progressed Mars opp. sun and transiting Neptune opp. sun, and I don't even know anyone with transiting Neptune conjunct sun and progressed Mars opposition sun.

If I'm not mistaken, though, making up interpretations out of thin air (possibly without even having observed anyone going through such transits/progressions, or going through them yourself and paying attention to what happens in your life at that time) is an accepted practice in astrology.

There are so many different possible combinations of chart factors, it would be impossible for someone to write a book covering every possible obscure combination, like the above - so it's left to the astrologer to attempt to put everything together intuitively, using the basic building blocks of the standard meanings of the signs, houses, planets, aspects, etc.

They may also rely on anecdotal "evidence" (if it's available) which they have either heard of secondhand from credible-seeming sources, or experienced/observed firsthand (probably with all kinds of confirmation bias, etc. involved).

Anything longer than a couple of days either side of the exact date is unacceptable, and I'll tell you why later.

OK. :-)

Here you are retro fitting the results. The astrologers didn't mention 9/11 did they, they were specific about another date?

Well, I'm not sure if anyone went so far as to claim something would definitely happen even on the dates the transit was actually exact. But, as far as I know, none of them specified the exact date 9/11.

I don't think any of them would really insist on exactitude, though - even around 9/11, the Saturn/Pluto opposition was still ongoing (even though the transit was 2 degrees away from exact on the most notable date during that whole time period), and that's probably good enough for astrologers.

The transit became exact again around Oct. 27, 2001, and was exact for the last time around May 20, 2002 - two historically unremarkable dates (as far as I know).

However, I think the transit was thought to reflect the overall emotional mood and various themes of that overall period of time, and I have to it did _seem_ to do so rather accurately, despite the lack of anyone pinpointing a specific date rather than a range of time within which dire events were to occur.


Just to give some idea of how astrologers define the Saturn/Pluto opposition, and also to spare myself the effort of writing my own more thorough description of its astrological meanings, here's some nice, woolly woo... :-)

With effort it would probably be possible to find plenty of examples of astrologers evincing anxiety about the Saturn/Pluto opposition, dating from _before_ 9/11/2001 - but I'm already putting a lot of effort in just to write all these comments, so, I'll give myself a break here (at least for now) and someone else can research this more deeply if they're really interested.

Anyhow, I definitely recall seeing some astrological forecasts in the months prior to 9/11 which predicted difficulty during the Saturn/Pluto opposition; and I believe my mom told me (sometime after 9/11) that a while before that, she had seen on some popular news channel sometime before 9/11 (maybe months before 9/11), an astrologer claiming there might be a war. I know no further details about that, though.


Here's someone's article dated 10/25/2001 about the Saturn/Pluto opposition in general: Saturn Opposing Pluto Leaves Its Mark.

Another article, apparently written sometime in late Oct. 2001: The Saturn-Pluto Opposition (2001-2) Hmm, interesting trivia here which I hadn't heard before about the supposed "birth date" of the World Trade Center being Aug. 5th, 1966, the same month and day as Aug. 5th, 2001, the date the Saturn/Pluto opposition first became exact. Wonder if that's true - even if it is just a random meaningless coincidence, it's kind of interesting.

Here's something someone posted to alt.astrology.moderated on July 20, 2001: Why Deaths Happen Now


A thread which was started Sept. 12, 2001 on alt.astrology.moderated, discussing the events of 9/11, containing a confusing jumble of astrological speculations/retro-fittings: I don't get it ...

Hmm, reading that now, interestingly, I notice on the second page of that of that thread that someone points out that in "THE MOUNTAIN ASTROLOGER forecast in their August/September issue", someone apparently did pinpoint the date Sept. 11th. Page 2.

With a weakly-worded prediction ("it *will* be noticed") which doesn't give the least idea of an upcoming horror:

"Mars is in Capricorn right now; on Tuesday [Sept 11], when the Moon enters Cancer . . . it opposes Mars . . . . This combination reactivates the recent solar eclipse degree. It is short in duration, but it *will* be noticed."---Tem Tarriktar, "Forecast Calendar"

That alt.astrology.moderated thread also mentions that astrologer Rob Hand predicted war and stock market woes in the same issue of that magazine. Quoted from that thread:

"Check out the Robert Hand article on Pluto / Saturn in the same issue. He essentially predicts WAR and global stock market woes stemming from Libran ingress of 9/21/01."

10 days later than 9/11. I don't know what the term "Libran ingress" refers to (and, looking at a chart for that date, it doesn't look like anything entered Libra that day). Hmm, I guess I'd have to look up that magazine article to get an idea of what this is about.

But since you can look back on it you can say 'Hey look, see they did know.' But they didn't. This is another common theme amongst astrology, fitting predictions to events after the fact. Predictions are useless if they are only effective after the fact.

Yes, they definitely didn't know precisely. But it seemed as if some of them had some vague notion that some bad stuff was impending, just that they couldn't pinpoint precisely when it might be (aside from it happening someitme during the Saturn/Pluto opposition), nor exactly what it was going to be (except general ideas like it was probably going to be something very disruptive of the status quo, and there was at least that one guy claiming on July 20, 2001 in the alt.astrology.moderated thread I linked to above that it was "deadly").

As for the detail of what planet is associated with what 'things' I have one question, how was this determined?

Hmm, I'm not sure. Looking at the Foreword of "The Rulership Book" by Rex E. Bills, there doesn't seem to be an adequate answer provided there either. Here's the most relevant quote I can find:

"These rulerships are taken from the writings of many of the world's greatest astrologers."

It doesn't mention anything about how the "world's greatest astrologers" came up with them, nor exactly who those astrologers were (unless he means the folks whose books are in the Bibliography). The book features long lists of associations but doesn't cite the specific source for any of them, as far as I can see.

Anyhow, from what I've seen, it seems like the rulerships/associations/meanings depend a lot on the planet's (or asteroid's) name. While signs' meanings additionally appear to maybe be derived from the traditional symbols associated with those signs - Libra being associated with justice and fairness because Libra's symbol is the scales, and scales are traditionally associated with justice, etc.

Meanings often seem to be derived from things that those names remind you of - like, the asteroid Karin could be associated with anyone named Karin. (Not all astrologers consider asteroids to be valid, though).

If it's a mythological name, then, meanings often seem to be derived from or inspired by the mythology connected to that name. Pluto is the god of death, the underworld, etc., hence, Pluto in astrology is associated with death, the underworld (literally and figuratively - actual underground places, and organized crime), etc. Venus is the goddess of love, beauty, etc., hence Venus in astrology is associated with love, beauty, art, etc.

The name definitely doesn't have to be mythological for at least some astrologers to consider it to possibly "work" in astrology.

Before the dwarf planet Eris was officially named, it was nicknamed Xena, and some astrologers were rather amused by the fact that Lucy Lawless, the actress who plays Xena: Warrior Princess, has sun conjunct Xena (now named Eris) in Aries. The conjunction is about 3°25' away from exact.

(Actually, interestingly, she has a lot of Aries, assuming the birth time someone posted on alt.astrology.moderated is correct - ascendant at 5°57' Aries, moon at 6°05' Aries, sun at 8°08' Aries, Eris at 11°33' Aries, and Saturn at 14°26' Aries - which maybe seems rather interesting for an actress whose best-known role is a warrior character. In astrology, the sign Aries is ruled by Mars, the planet named after the Roman god of war).

So again I have to ask, what use is it then?

General, blurry foreshadowing of future events without many specifics, perhaps?

This example is exactly the sort of thing that highlights the problem with astrology, and why I want the tests results to be more specific.

What type of career benefit:

[...]

What type of public accolade:

Hmm, good lists. Well, that may be too much to expect of astrology (as I'm sure you realize... :-) ). Though, I suppose the signs and houses of the planet (or whatever) involved, as well as the houses ruled by the planet being transited, are thought to suggest some additional detail.

Even if the planets involved in a transiting aspect aren't, themselves, associated with something like, say, serious amorous relationships, or partnerships, or opponents, etc. (like Mercury and Jupiter) - if the planet being transited rules the 7th house (like if one has Mercury ruling one's 7th house because the sign on the cusp of one's 7th house is Virgo or Gemini) - then, the transit is thought to affect relationships of various types, like marriages, equal partnerships of various types, opponents, etc. Any predictions based on astrological houses requires a specific birth time, though.

I guess another thing that could provide additional detail is the other aspects involved in the transit, as well as other transits going on at the same time (even if they're not directly connected to each other). Looking at one transit in isolation is probably not conducive at all to coming up with imaginative, blended, potentially more specific interpretations. Maybe the sign and other details of the ruler of the transiting planet could provide some more detail as well.

"New technology" (from your list) brings Aquarius or Uranus to mind - perhaps if the sign Aquarius is involved (like Jupiter in Aquarius, or Jupiter ruled by a planet in Aquarius), or there's a Uranus aspect, like Jupiter trine Uranus, maybe an astrologer would think new technology is involved somehow - like getting a new computer which will be valuable for work-related purposes, or a job related to technology in some way.

A new business partner would make me think the 7th house (associated with partnerships, as I mentioned above), or perhaps Libra (the 7th sign, associated with the 7th house) might be involved somehow. A pay raise makes me think the 2nd house (associated with one's own material resources), or maybe Taurus (the 2nd sign, associated with the 2nd house) could maybe be involved. Hmm, maybe there it's possible to get a _bit_ more detailed, then.


With my Jupiter/midheaven in Cancer transit that I mentioned in a previous comment, perhaps an astrologer would indeed (as I speculated before) think my good fortune might relate in some way to my home and family, since Cancer is associated with home and family.

There weren't many interesting aspects with Jupiter going on around that time - the most notable one looks like transiting Venus conjunct transiting Jupiter (which I overlooked until looking closer just now, as I write this).

Venus is associated with peace, among other things, and, actually, that week has always stood out to me quite prominently as one of the most peaceful, relaxing weeks I've ever had in my life, though I guess I don't have any hard evidence to show that I definitely felt that way, since I don't have any diaries from back then...

So, in any possible way that could occur, and that is an almost infinite list, you get out of some kind of situation that was in some way restrictive or limiting. Who doesn't have a restictive situation to deal with? Its a dead cert that this would be a hit with almost anyone at any point in a year.

Yes... :-) But, even though it's poorly-worded enough that it seems _that_ broad, maybe it only refers to situations which seem like a substantial departure from the norm, which may actually be memorable enough that they stand out in your mind years later.

For instance, never in my life have I ever had the house all to myself for such a long stretch of time as Aug. 4-12th or 13th, 2001, or however long it was that my family's vacation lasted - and I can only think of two occasions where my family went on vacation for a week or longer, and that was one of them. We've gone on a few other trips but they all lasted no longer than 3 or 4 days.


To digress a bit - the one other long vacation my family went on, which I did go on, definitely seemed as if it peculiarly correlated with some transits of mine. The vacation began a single day before transiting Saturn entered my 9th house, the house of long journeys and foreign countries; and meanwhile, transiting Jupiter had been in my 9th house for a bit more than a month.

To this day, that vacation remains the longest, most extensive vacation I have ever been on. We visited a lot of states I had never even been to, and I visited a foreign country (Canada) for the first time, though unfortunately we spent more time driving hastily from place to place than actually stopping and enjoying things. This hastiness is something which seems like it could correlate with the fact that Jupiter and Saturn were in Gemini, a sign associated with brevity, hastiness, and superficiality.

I have many of the pictures I took on my website.

I had nothing to do with the choice of the date of when we began our trip, and my family members aren't into astrology.


An astrologer, noting my busy 9th house in 2000, conceivably could have made an accurate prediction that I might go on a long journey.

On the other hand, especially knowing that around that time, I was of age to be thinking about college, they easily might've made the inaccurate guess, based on the same transits, that I might pursue higher education (like college).

Jupiter ("the greater benefic") was in my 9th between July 1, 2000 and July 30, 2001 (oops, I forgot to mention in my other post how lengthy the transits of planets through houses can be - yet another predictive method providing only a large range of time).

In astrology, the 9th house as well as Jupiter (ruler of the 9th sign, Sagittarius, and hence associated with the 9th house) are both associated with higher education, as well as long journeys, etc., etc.

And perhaps an astrologer could even have guessed that I might go to college on the basis of Saturn in my 9th, since Saturn is associated with responsibility, and going to college would certainly involve plenty of that.

But, if any astrologer had made the guess that I would go to college, they would have been wrong.

On the other other hand, maybe an astrologer would have guessed that I'd be somewhat restricted and limited in various 9th-house-related things (like long journeys, or higher education), since Saturn is associated with restrictions, which might cancel out some of the benefits correlating with Jupiter. Hmm, who knows... :-) Here's another good example of the vagueness of astrology, though - Saturn in the 9th being "right" either way, whether I went to college or not.

In the end, all that happened was, I went on a fun but sort of pitiful, overly hasty vacation with my family, rushing from place to place, and, I don't think I was even thinking about college at that point, throughout all that time - since I figured getting money for college would be a better first step than just rashly going there and taking on debt to do so.

Even despite all the vagueness, though, the fact that that vacation was the longest journey I had ever been on in my life, and it happened during the transit of Jupiter through my 9th, and it began one day before Saturn entered my 9th for the first time in my life, seems, uh, maybe notable. :-) An odd coincidence, anyhow - but maybe it's just random and meaningless after all.

OK, done with that digression... :-)

That's why I want specifics. If astrology can't give them then in my opinion it fails the test, but I'd like to see where it can go anyway. Call it curiosity.

Again, I'll do my best. For the many reasons I've stated, I don't expect it to go extraordinarily well, but, I see no harm in trying... :-)

So are you saying astrology can be working correctly and still give predictions that are impossible?

Yes, I suppose so... :-)

Yes, and that is the problem. If it is unfalsifiable then it is pseudoscience and not worthy of consideration. What you are saying is that when astrology makes vague and general guesses that can be interpreted in many ways to make a hit astrology is right, and when it is wrong, it is still right.

Well, actually, I wasn't saying it's still right, I was saying that's why astrologers may still see astrology as not being invalidated. :-)

We do not know how the rules of astrology have been determined.

Yes. There is a portion of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica which seems to have something to say on that topic, though. It seems plausible, but I don't know exactly where they got this information from (though that article does feature a bibliography):

Quote:
"The Babylonian priests accordingly applied themselves to the task of perfecting a system of interpretation of the phenomena to be observed in the heavens, and it was natural that the system was extended from the moon, sun and five planets to the more prominent and recognizable fixed stars.

That system involved not merely the movements of the moon, sun and planets, but the observation of their relative position to one another and to all kinds of peculiarities noted at any point in the course of their movements: in the case of the moon, for instance, the exact appearance of the new crescent, its position in the heavens, the conditions at conjunction and opposition, the appearance of the horns, the halo frequently seen with the new moon, which was compared to a "cap," the ring round the full moon, which was called a "stall" (i.e. "enclosure"), and more of the like.

To all these phenomena some significance was attached, and this significance was naturally intensified in the case of such a striking phenomenon as an eclipse of the moon. Applying the same method of careful observation to the sun and planets, and later to some of the constellations and to many of the fixed stars, it will be apparent that the body of observations noted must have grown in the course of time to large and indeed to enormous proportions, and correspondingly the interpretations assigned to the nearly endless variations in the phenomena thus observed.

The interpretations themselves were based (as in the case of divination through the liver) chiefly on two factors:--(1) on the recollection or on written records of what in the past had taken place when the phenomenon or phenomena in question had been observed, and (2) association of ideas--involving sometimes merely a play upon words--in connexion with the phenomenon or phenomena observed.

Thus if on a certain occasion the rise of the new moon in a cloudy sky was followed by victory over an enemy or by abundant rain, the sign in question was thus proved to be a favourable one and its recurrence would be regarded as a good omen, though the prognostication would not necessarily be limited to the one or the other of those occurrences, but might be extended to apply to other circumstances.

On the other hand, the appearance of the new moon earlier than was expected was regarded as an unfavourable omen--prognosticating in one case defeat, in another death among cattle, in a third bad crops--not necessarily because these events actually took place after such a phenomenon, but by an application of the general principle resting upon association of ideas whereby anything premature would suggest an unfavourable occurrence. A thin halo seen above the new moon was pictured as a cap, and the association between this and the symbol of royalty, which was a conical-shaped cap, led to interpreting the phenomenon as an indication that the ruler would have a successful reign.

In this way a mass of traditional interpretation of all kinds of observed phenomena was gathered, and once gathered became a guide to the priests for all times."

End of quote.

Even today, wordplay is sometimes employed as a method of deriving astrological interpretations.

I'm guessing this is probably most frequently seen in the practice (which I already mentioned above somewhere) of deriving astrological interpretations from a planet or asteroid's name and things associated with that name.

OK, I guess this comment is quite long enough... :-) Sorry if it's a bit overwhelming and shockingly full of woo, etc.

I wrote:

The transit became exact again around Oct. 27, 2001, and was exact for the last time around May 20, 2002 - two historically unremarkable dates (as far as I know).

Sorry, factual error here. I think the software I was using to get these dates must have had a glitch or something.

The actual dates the Saturn/Pluto opposition was exact: Aug. 5, 2001, Nov. 2, 2001 and May 26, 2002.

Apollia:

Dang, that's a lot of information. I will almost certainly skip over a lot of the specific astrological stuff you posted so if I missed something you wanted answering please let me know.

Anyhoo:

No terribly practical use, needless to say... :-) I can't think of one off-hand, at least.

That is, to say the least, refreshing to hear. It does beg the question, why your interest in it? I can't help but wonder what you could do if you put the effort you put into astrology into, well, something useful.

It's possible. And actually, some might give different results using the same data using the _same_ technique (such as looking at transits), if they aren't thorough in looking at all the ongoing transits, and focus on some, and ignore others.

This is a pretty startling admission I have to say. It just adds fuel to the fire, astrology doesn't work.

For instance, if you had a medicine prepared in the same way, applied in the same way and given to identical twins suffering from the same illness and living in the same conditions, and in one it made the illness sort of slightly better in a vague sort of way, and in the other it killed them, you'd have to conclude that the medicine might not be that useful.

If two things contradict each other, I think you're expected to use your imagination to blend them together in some "plausible" way.

Bingo, exactly the problem with astrology. If it is wrong, it is because you aren't trying hard enough to fit it to something that makes it right, exactly what is happening with astrology and 9/11. I shouldn't have to fit it, and I certainly shouldn't have to try explaining two contradictory positions given by the same astrology. If I do, it ain't working right!

If I'm not mistaken, though, making up interpretations out of thin air (possibly without even having observed anyone going through such transits/progressions, or going through them yourself and paying attention to what happens in your life at that time) is an accepted practice in astrology.

I should say I am not surprised, but, it is still pretty astonishing to hear someone admit what skeptics have always said.

There are so many different possible combinations of chart factors, it would be impossible for someone to write a book covering every possible obscure combination, like the above - so it's left to the astrologer to attempt to put everything together intuitively, using the basic building blocks of the standard meanings of the signs, houses, planets, aspects, etc.

In other words, despite what the restricted and incomplete rules may say, astrologers are still expected to make it up, by other astrologers. Do you still think something might be valid about astrology? I mean, really?

So, I read through the 9/11 stuff you posted, and whilst some of it may seem compelling, especailly if you harbour the opinion that astrology may be valid in some way, I am still not convinced. It amounts to:

"Someone said something bad would happen in this period, maybe war or financial related."

I mean, come on. Here's my prediction:

Sometime in the next 30 days something related to war or the stock market/business/economic field will occur. It will be bad. Lots of people will be hurt by it. I'm going to say sometime around the 15th July will be important.

Will you really be surprised if I am right? Would it mean more if I claimed I got this information from the stars and planets?

On top of that, here is what Wikipedia has to say about the time from Aug 5th to Sept 11th 2001:


August 5 - The Cleveland Indians defeat the Seattle Mariners 15-14 in a record-setting game known as the Impossible Return.
August 9 - U.S. President George W. Bush announces his support for federal funding of limited research on embryonic stem cells.
August 9 - In the Comoros, the "Military Committee" of Major Mohamad Bacar seizes power in the island of Anjouan, that had declared independence. They plan to rejoin the Comoros.
August 10 - The Hudson River Way is opened to traffic.
August 24 - The Heino murders in Finland: four teenagers assassinate businessman Martti Heino and his wife Elise Heino.
August 25 - A Cessna 402 aircraft carrying 9 people, including R&B singer Aaliyah, crashes in the Bahamas, killing all aboard.

September 1 - The libertarian Free State Project is founded at Yale University.
September 2 - Cartoon Network launched its late night television block, Adult Swim
September 4 - Google is awarded a patent, number 6,285,999, for the PageRank search algorithm used in the Google search engine.
September 5 - Peru's attorney general files homicide charges against ex-President Alberto Fujimori.
September 6 - United States v. Microsoft: The United States Justice Department announces that it no longer seeks to break-up software maker Microsoft, and will instead seek a lesser antitrust penalty.
September 9 - A suicide bomber wounds Ahmed Shah Massoud, military commander of the Afghan Northern Alliance; he dies September 14.
September 10 - Norwegian parliamentary election, 2001: Kjell Magne Bondevik returns to power as head of a conservative coalition.
September 10 - U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld holds a press conference to disclose that: "According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions."

Now, why is none of this mentioned by the astrologers? What motive do you think they may have for trying to retrofit 9/11 to their vague predictions? There is plenty of stuff about war and finance in there, but what they want you to think about is 9/11.

I'll bet you can guess they'd be taking credit for predicting those tings if 9/11 hadn't occurred though, because those predictions could fit a lot of those events.

As for how the rules of astrology are determined I have a couple of thoughts, hardly original and I am certain I may be repeating stuff Skeptico and others have said elsewhere:

1. Assigning random characteristics to names of objects/people and basing the characteristics quite often on mythology seems well, a little unscientific. I can't say I am surprised that astrology is happy to admit its rules are often based on fictional characters, and claim this to be a virtue.

2. When the Babylonian priests were observing astronomical phenomenon and assigning events based on what they observed, were they everywhere at that precise moment and observing every possible event to be observed at that precise moment? Obviously not. Well then what does that mean for astrology?

If Saturn being somewhere at some point was observed to coincide with some plague (for example) hitting Babylonia and this was therefore codified in astrology as meaning death and illness were coming, what does it mean if this plague was happening nowhere else in the universe at that same time? Well, it means astrology's rules are completely and utterly man made and arbitrary with no universal guiding principle or logic. And therefore, invalid and useless, but appearing every now and then to be unerringly accurate (come on, if I made several thousand guesses a day for several thousand years you can bet I'd look good once in a while as well).

Basically it's like an alien spying on me watching football (I mean proper football, the kind where you use your feet and that the rest of the world plays), seeing me yell with delight when Liverpool score and assuming that every human yells with delight whenever Liverpool score, then writing this down as a rule to be used to predict human behaviour and passing it on to every other alien as completely reliable.

As for my comments about the general nature of wording of predictions I am not sure I got it across well, and you do seem a little contradictory here. My point was that astrology can seem to be worded accurately before the event, but it isn't because there is an endless list of ways it can be interpreted even if it appears to be specific. Further to this, astrology only seems to be accurate when viewed after the event. So:

"Something good will happen to you in work."

Becomes:

"See, astrology predicted my promotion."

When it did nothing of the sort because the field is almost infinitely wide.

And now you seem to be saying astrology can give pretty detailed information (not specific but detailed) when before you seemed to say that it could only be general. Did you change your mind or did I miss something?

In reply to my asking if astrology can give predictions that are impossible you said:

Yes, I suppose so.

Well I hate to be predictable (I'm sure you saw it coming), but what use is it then?

Well, actually, I wasn't saying it's still right, I was saying that's why astrologers may still see astrology as not being invalidated.

I see what you mean, I should have said that 'astrologers still think it is working, even when it is not.'

The more I learn about astrology, the more convinced I am it is junk.

Apollia,

I was interested to see you talk about "sun square Pluto". Now, one argument I have seen for why nobody is able to say how the rules of astrology work is because their discovery is buried in the dim and distant past, when we all lived in the forest and nobody lived anywhere else, and when we were all much more attuned to nature.

However, Pluto can't come under that classification. It was discovered in 1930 (by an astronomer, not by an astrologer, I might add).

Somebody, somewhere, therefore, must have worked out the characteristic infleuences of Pluto within living memory. How was this done? What rules were consulted to allow this? Did the gnostic ancients actually have processes predicated on the discovery of a new planet? Wow!

And then, what happens if you neglect the contributions of Pluto (and, arguably Sedna, Quaoar, Neptune and Uranus, which were all discovered in historical time)? Do they invalidate the findings of earlier horoscopes? What about the Asteroid Belt?

Why did anyone believe in these horoscopes in the first place, if the accuracy was skewed by failing to take into account these bodies, which do seem to be at least important enough to take into account?

This is what I really, really want to know: what made anyone suspect the life influences of the planets in the first place? What made someone sit down and write these complicated rules? How did he or she work them out, especially when working with very incomplete data?

I would have expected that the correlation would be strong enough that it would draw your attention. Strong enough that lots of people would notice it. If so, why can't we see it (or at least agree on it) today?

Or did some high priest look to reinforce his influence on some ancient king by making something up?

A question for Apollia, or anyone else:

I wonder what you thought about Carlson’s study concluding their test 1 – getting the subject to choose his or her horoscope from three – was a poor test of astrology. They decided that test 1 was unreliable because they the subjects were insufficiently self-aware to select an accurate description of themselves from a group of three. In other words, the fact that they only chose the correct horoscope 1 in 3 times (ie what was expected by chance), could have been because the subjects were not aware of their own true personality traits, and not just because astrology doesn’t work.

As I wrote before, of all the woo beliefs, astrology seems the most persistent, the most resistant to evidence, and the most frustrating to debate with believers. I am reminded of Randi’s unsinkable rubber ducks - no amount of contrary evidence will ever un-convince the true believer in astrology. Just click on the You-Tube link linked above by Paul, or read the comment by conradbrean - they're completely resistant to evidence or logic.

While astrology is persistent and frustrating to debate with believers, I do believe that main-stream religion is both more persistent and frequently more frustrating to debate simply because astrologers do not claim to have God's favor (in my experience) while religions do.

I don't think we need to test astrology again. By now, everyone is either convinced that it doesn't work or too closed-minded to be convinced by evidence.

My opinion on that notwithstanding, I thought of a sixth possibility for testing the people (not necessarily a good one, but not included above); have them assessed by an interview with astrologers other than the ones who will be taking the tests and trying to match people to horoscopes. This method would have astrologers get the data and pass it (scrubbed of information that could reveal birth dates and locations) to different astrologers to be used in the test. It would, it would seem, directly compare the abilities of astrologers with full access to the people with the abilities of astrologers forced to rely on magic star-reading abilities alone; the former group would compile a (hopefully accurate) personality reading and act as a group of control astrologers. Although their ability to accurately read the peoples' personalities may be imperfect, their function as a control group may offset the need for a perfect reading of the subjects' personalities— if a group of astrologers who know a subjects' natal information can't match between people and personality descriptions, then how could we expect any accuracy from astrologers who don't?

Here, I'll just reply to Skeptico's most recent comment, and a couple other short comments. Still working on some replies to Jimmy_Blue and Big Al, and eventually I'll get around to more remarks on the original blog post.

Although I would've enjoyed a lot more criticism to dig into, it's a relief that I'm not flooded with posts and points to reply to, since I've been a bit busy lately. Even on the internet, I'm frequently more at ease with a snail-mail-like pace of correspondence, so, this suits me well... :-)

Skeptico wrote:

I wonder what you thought about Carlson’s study concluding their test 1 – getting the subject to choose his or her horoscope from three – was a poor test of astrology.

Though I don't know all the details about that test, I think I'm inclined to probably agree with that conclusion.

They decided that test 1 was unreliable because they the subjects were insufficiently self-aware to select an accurate description of themselves from a group of three.

I suppose that could perhaps be one factor.

In other words, the fact that they only chose the correct horoscope 1 in 3 times (ie what was expected by chance), could have been because the subjects were not aware of their own true personality traits, and not just because astrology doesn’t work.

I'm guessing the test subjects were probably not familiar with astrology, and weren't actually looking directly at their own chart, but instead at some kind of personality description somehow based on their charts.

I suppose my opinion depends partly on how this description was obtained or created.

If various interpretations were taken verbatim from an astrology book, or some kind of computer-generated astrology report was given to the people, and no effort was made to personalize it more, perhaps in such ways as blending interpretations to reduce contradictions, and try to estimate which traits are most emphasized and which are comparatively minor - that might be a problem.


For example, the combination of Jupiter and Saturn conjunct the ascendant is definitely different from the basic interpretations of Jupiter alone conjunct the ascendant or Saturn alone conjunct the ascendant.

However, a computer-generated astrology interpretation would likely give you some unblended intrepretations of both factors in isolation, like:

Jupiter conjunct ascendant:
"You radiate a sense of confidence, well-being, and optimism, which inspires trust and good feelings in others. You like yourself and it shows. You expect success in life and you generally achieve it. However, you also tend to exaggerate or to overestimate yourself, and you can be sloppy and careless when it comes to details."

Saturn conjunct ascendant:
"You have a mature and rather heavy, solemn demeanor, and you tend to take yourself and life too seriously. You possess a great deal of self-control, self-discipline, and a very strong conscience. You may be dogged by feelings of personal inadequacy and inhibition. You seem authoritarian to others."

(I didn't write these, though I might have slightly changed the wording a while back, can't remember. The above are quoted from the expensive astrology software I referred to in a previous comment; it's text from that software's "Merlin Report").

As you can see, these two interpretations contradict each other in various ways. For instance, the first one mentions confidence, liking oneself, and radiating a sense of well-being and optimism; the second mentions having a sense of personal inadequacy and seeming heavy and solemn.

If the personality interpretations given to the people contained contradictions like this, I wouldn't be surprised if they couldn't choose the correct one.


However, if the interpretation was handmade by an actual and "competent" astrologer who carefully studied the charts and produced an interpretation that was tailored for that exact chart, then, that may be a bit more problematic for anyone who wishes to preserve the possible illusion that astrology works, since possibly, such an interpretation could be expected to be more individual and recognizable, that is, if astrology really works.

However, another unsinkable rubber duck excuse that comes to mind is the possibility that there are so many different chart factors to take into account, perhaps even the "best" astrologers will end up doing a very uneven job of interpretation (paying too much attention to some things and ignoring others that may deserve more attention), if they rely on simply looking at the chart and intuitively picking out the things they think are important, instead of examining things in a more systematic fashion.


viggen wrote:

While astrology is persistent and frustrating to debate with believers, I do believe that main-stream religion is both more persistent and frequently more frustrating to debate simply because astrologers do not claim to have God's favor (in my experience) while religions do.

Good point. I agree... :-)


Maronan wrote:

I don't think we need to test astrology again. By now, everyone is either convinced that it doesn't work or too closed-minded to be convinced by evidence.

Well, I disagree - I think testing astrology is still worthwhile.

It's a topic that a quite significant amount of people disagree on (I haven't heard statistics on how many astrology believers and skeptics there are in the world, but I'm sure there are many in both camps) - so, I think it's important to try to find out what the facts are, whether or not anyone takes the results seriously.

Besides, I quite doubt that _every_one is that dead-set in their ways of thinking that showing them evidence will be completely useless.

Even if someone _is_ close-minded, sure, it might not change their minds right away, but it might help chip away at or erode some of their fallacious belief systems, better than mere ridicule would.

I can't think of much to say about your test idea, since I'm not sure I understand it perfectly well yet. But, looks interesting in any case. :-)

Apollia:

Re: I'm guessing the test subjects were probably not familiar with astrology, and weren't actually looking directly at their own chart, but instead at some kind of personality description somehow based on their charts.

No, they were looking at three charts, as provided by the expert astrologers. One was their own chart, the other two were charts of other people. They had to pick their own chart out of the three offered. The thinking goes, if astrology accurately predicts a person’s personality traits, the real horoscope should more accurately predict the person’s personality than the two horoscopes of other people. (Because if it doesn’t. what is the point of astrology?) If it does, the person should be able to pick out the correct horoscope out of the three, because that would more closely match the person’s personality. They only actually picked the correct one, one time in three – no better than guessing.

So was this because astrology doesn’t work (astrology predicts actual personality traits no better than chance), or because the subjects don’t know themselves well enough to pick out a correct personality description of themselves? Carlson decided that the latter could be true, and so this test (# 1) was an unreliable test of astrology.

No, they were looking at three charts, as provided by the expert astrologers. One was their own chart, the other two were charts of other people. They had to pick their own chart out of the three offered.

Hmm, OK, I'm probably misunderstanding this somehow. Probably just a mix-up related to the terminology we're using.

By "chart", do you mean something like this: Example astrological chart diagram

Also, were the test subjects in the first test who were expected to choose their own chart out of three charts, non-astrologers?

If so, I'm not at all surprised if the results were no better than random guessing, because an actual astrological chart diagram would be quite meaningless to the average non-astrologer.

But I'm probably just misunderstanding something... :-)

Re: By "chart", do you mean something like this: Example astrological chart diagram

No, it was an interpretation of the natal chart done by the expert astrologers. In other words, it was the personality description that you would normally get when visiting an astrologer. No astrological knowledge was required of the subjects - they just had to pick the personality description (interpretation of the chart by an astrologer), that was theirs.

No, it was an interpretation of the natal chart done by the expert astrologers. In other words, it was the personality description that you would normally get when visiting an astrologer.

Ah, OK then. Thanks. That's what I originally guessed was the case - that's what I meant when I said "personality description somehow based on their charts". (I made a typo in my original post, though - meant to say "chart", not "charts").

I think the rest of my comment posted at June 30, 2007 at 08:14 AM already pretty much summed up my opinions, but, if there's anything more that you want me to add, I'll be happy to try to answer. :-)

I think that the most accurate way to understand astrology is as a symbolic language. Once a person understands this, they can begin to see that doing something like testing astrology would be like attempting to test English. Does it work? Well, that depends on whether or not you speak that particular language.


Big Al- You offered your birth info earlier, but you didn't specify whether the time was 10:08 am or pm?

Skeptico replies to pixiequix

Re: I think that the most accurate way to understand astrology is as a symbolic language. Once a person understands this, they can begin to see that doing something like testing astrology would be like attempting to test English. Does it work? Well, that depends on whether or not you speak that particular language.

Even if you couldn’t speak English, you could still test to see if English speakers understood English. For example, you could get an English speaker to ask a series of English speakers to raise either their right or their left hand (chosen randomly). If the English speakers raised the correct hand better than chance (better than 50%), you could conclude that English “works” for those people. You wouldn’t need to speak English to be able to do that – you would just need to use experienced English speakers, just as Carlson used experienced expert astrologers. The point is that (a) you can test astrology this way and (b) it failed the test.

Pixiequix, I was an a.m. birth.

Sorry I took so long. Been rather busy.

Jimmy_Blue wrote:

Dang, that's a lot of information. I will almost certainly skip over a lot of the specific astrological stuff you posted so if I missed something you wanted answering please let me know.

OK, perhaps later. My reply is pretty long already, so I won't just yet... :-)

That is, to say the least, refreshing to hear. It does beg the question, why your interest in it?

Well, the thing that got me seriously interested it in the first place was discovering the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. He was an extremely skeptical guy, and loathed astrology and any other nonsense.

I was browsing a book of his writings called "Miscellaneous Writings", which contained hardly any fiction by him, mostly just essays, some autobiographical material, letters, and so forth.

I was quite astonished by how much I agreed with so many of his opinions, and I had the impression that I had never met, heard, or read of anyone whose opinions, interests, etc., seemed to coincide so completely with my own.

The book reprinted two letters of his which he had written to his local newspaper, criticizing astrology. The topic of astrology, back then, was something I quite seldom thought about, but his letters berating astrology (letters which I relished and completely agreed with at the time) served to bring the topic to mind.

And so, since I felt like I had so much in common with him, the idea soon occurred to me that maybe an amusing test of astrology would be to compare our two astrological charts and see if there were any remarkable similarities.

Being utterly convinced that astrology was nonsense, I expected to see nothing of interest, just a random jumble, but since I had nothing better to do, I got on the web, found his birth data (complete with a birth time, to my surprise. Details on the source of that birth time are here), went to an astrology website and got copies of our charts.

It took me a while to figure out the charts, though the fact that I had fooled a bit with astrology when I was younger and had ended up with the astrological glyphs memorized as a result made it easier. I didn't notice _all_ of the following right away, but, it turned out, to my surprise, our charts did have some similarities.

Both charts have:

* Libra rising. (This was the most obvious similarity at a glance, and gave our charts an immediate resemblance to each other).

* Cancer midheaven. (Also obvious at a glance).

* Most of the same signs on the same house cusps (except my 2nd and 8th house cusp signs are different from his, at least using the very commonly-used Placidus house system).

* A strong emphasis on things in air signs. Out of the 10 main astrological planets (sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto), 6 out of 10 are in air signs in his chart, and 5 out of 10 are in air signs in my chart. Plus the ascendant is in Libra (an air sign) in both charts.

* 3 planets, plus the ascendant, in Libra.

* 2 planets in Gemini.

* 1 planet in Sagittarius.

* Houses 5, 6 and 7 empty of anything major, like planets; and also empty of somewhat commonly-used asteroids like Ceres, Vesta, Juno, Pallas, etc.

* Vertex in the 7th house. (Though, even now, I still don't know what the Vertex is exactly or what it supposedly means... :-) ).

* One of the astrological "luminaries" (sun or moon) in Leo in each chart. (Sun in his case, moon in mine).

* Mercury in one of its two signs of domicile. (Virgo in his case, Gemini in mine).

* 8 out of the 10 main astrological planets in "masculine" signs, 2 out of the 10 main astrological planets in "feminine" signs.

* Mars opposition Neptune (an orb of 3°0' in my case, 4°0' in his). He had Mars in Sagittarius opposition Neptune in Gemini, while I have Mars in Gemini opposition Neptune in Sagittarius.

* Moon sesquisquare Neptune (an orb of 56' in my case, 24' in his).

So... that all seemed sort of striking, even though I thought it was all probably just a random fluke. But, it was enough to get me interested, and running into various other odd-seeming things has kept me interested.

I can't help but wonder what you could do if you put the effort you put into astrology into, well, something useful.

:-) Well, probably not all that much, I've been a rather distracted, faint-hearted dabbler with astrology and pretty much everything else in the past several years. Too plagued with money issues, etc. to focus very well.

This is a pretty startling admission I have to say. It just adds fuel to the fire, astrology doesn't work.

Well, maybe... :-) Actually, though, I should emphasize that an astrologer looking at just one transit and ignoring others is probably not being thorough enough.

I rather doubt any astrologers are as thorough as possible. My personal feeling is that there are so many different factors to take into account it would take some kind of software to make the process of interpretation truly standardized, with nothing overlooked and nothing exaggerated.

Without that, I think, astrologers may just continue muddling along, singling out a few things here, another few things there, doing things "intuitively", and probably ignoring whatever it doesn't suit them to look at, and exaggerating what it does suit them to look at, etc.

For instance, if you had a medicine prepared in the same way, applied in the same way and given to identical twins suffering from the same illness and living in the same conditions, and in one it made the illness sort of slightly better in a vague sort of way, and in the other it killed them, you'd have to conclude that the medicine might not be that useful.

Well, I guess to fit my example to this analogy - I could say that the way the three astrologers in my example were interpreting the charts is equivalent to preparing three different medicines in the same way, but using three different sets of ingredients, so it would be natural to expect different results.

Bingo, exactly the problem with astrology. If it is wrong, it is because you aren't trying hard enough to fit it to something that makes it right,

Yes, that encapsulates one of the main excuses quite nicely.

Another excuse (aforementioned) being, it's just another one of the accepted, expected occasional "flukes" where nothing that seems to obviously correlate with that transit (or other predictive technique) happens while that transit (or whatever) is going on.

exactly what is happening with astrology and 9/11. I shouldn't have to fit it, and I certainly shouldn't have to try explaining two contradictory positions given by the same astrology. If I do, it ain't working right!

Yes, at least it's not working tremendously usefully... :-)

I should say I am not surprised, but, it is still pretty astonishing to hear someone admit what skeptics have always said.

:-)

In other words, despite what the restricted and incomplete rules may say, astrologers are still expected to make it up, by other astrologers.

Yes. Actually, what I said about "thin air" might be a bit of an exaggeration.

They can't go too wild making any random thing they want up - I think, to be accepted by other astrologers, the result has to make sense in light of the ingredients used.

Thus, I think a lot of astrologers would have a big problem with someone asserting that "You having Saturn in Scorpio means you're happy, fluffy and superficial".

One of the easiest ways to put across a general idea of the characteristics associated with astrological Saturn is to point out the fictional character Scrooge (before he turned nice). Scorpio is associated with dark, scary things, deep insight, etc.

Neither is associated with happiness, fluffiness, or superficiality, so, making such a claim probably wouldn't make sense even to astrologers.

Do you still think something might be valid about astrology? I mean, really?

Well... I wouldn't have stuck with it this long if I didn't suspect there might be.

So, I read through the 9/11 stuff you posted, and whilst some of it may seem compelling, especailly if you harbour the opinion that astrology may be valid in some way, I am still not convinced. It amounts to:

"Someone said something bad would happen in this period, maybe war or financial related."

Hee, hee. :-)

Well, that's understating it a bit. It was expected by various astrologers to be seriously bad. (I wish I felt like researching this more to back this statement up more thoroughly...)

Since the Saturn/Pluto opposition happens only about every 36 years, it's a relatively rare astrological event, not a common, garden-variety sort of transit. And, 9/11 was definitely not just a garden-variety bad occurrence - for me, at least, it was the most significant (and negative) historical event in my lifetime.

So it seemed kind of weird that such an unusually major negative historical event happened to coincide with an uncommon, major negative astrological event.

I mean, come on. Here's my prediction:

Sometime in the next 30 days something related to war or the stock market/business/economic field will occur. It will be bad. Lots of people will be hurt by it. I'm going to say sometime around the 15th July will be important.

:-)

Again, I wish I felt like researching this topic more so I could find some specific examples of predictions prior to that transit which were more strongly expressed (and hopefully more specific) than your parody... :-)

Will you really be surprised if I am right? Would it mean more if I claimed I got this information from the stars and planets?

I see what you mean... :-)

On top of that, here is what Wikipedia has to say about the time from Aug 5th to Sept 11th 2001:

[...]

Now, why is none of this mentioned by the astrologers? What motive do you think they may have for trying to retrofit 9/11 to their vague predictions?

If I'm not mistaken, it's taken for granted by astrologers that everything that happens, no matter what it is, is somehow appropriately represented by whatever is currently going on in the astrological chart that belongs to that event.

So, if you asked an astrologer, they might very well try to retrofit all the rest of those things as well.

As for why they couldn't predict those things specifically in advance - it's probably for the same reason why they couldn't get really specific about 9/11.

There is plenty of stuff about war and finance in there, but what they want you to think about is 9/11.

I'll bet you can guess they'd be taking credit for predicting those tings if 9/11 hadn't occurred though,

Could be, but it definitely wouldn't seem nearly as remarkable, since those things don't fit quite so obviously to the symbols involved, and they also aren't as major historically.

It still seems kind of strange to me that the Twin Towers were destroyed by airplanes hijacked by foreign terrorists, while Saturn (buildings, structures) in Gemini (the sign of the twins) was opposition Pluto (associated with destruction, terrorism, fanaticism, etc.) in Sagittarius (associated with foreigners, religion, and possibly means of long-distance travel, etc.).

As for how the rules of astrology are determined I have a couple of thoughts, hardly original and I am certain I may be repeating stuff Skeptico and others have said elsewhere:

1. Assigning random characteristics to names of objects/people and basing the characteristics quite often on mythology seems well, a little unscientific.

Agreed. No one should claim astrology is a science.

I can't say I am surprised that astrology is happy to admit its rules are often based on fictional characters, and claim this to be a virtue.

:-)

2. When the Babylonian priests were observing astronomical phenomenon and assigning events based on what they observed, were they everywhere at that precise moment and observing every possible event to be observed at that precise moment? Obviously not. Well then what does that mean for astrology?

If Saturn being somewhere at some point was observed to coincide with some plague (for example) hitting Babylonia and this was therefore codified in astrology as meaning death and illness were coming, what does it mean if this plague was happening nowhere else in the universe at that same time? Well, it means astrology's rules are completely and utterly man made and arbitrary with no universal guiding principle or logic.

Yes, perhaps, but, they aren't considered to invariably, infallibly mean the same thing every time, everywhere.

And, I suppose some astrologers might also blame the fact that every city, country, etc. has a different chart (since they were founded at different times), and the ongoing Saturn transit would interact differently with each city or country's chart.

Sorry, there's always some more or less lame excuse... :-)

And therefore, invalid and useless, but appearing every now and then to be unerringly accurate (come on, if I made several thousand guesses a day for several thousand years you can bet I'd look good once in a while as well).

Yes... :-)

Basically it's like an alien spying on me watching football (I mean proper football, the kind where you use your feet and that the rest of the world plays), seeing me yell with delight when Liverpool score and assuming that every human yells with delight whenever Liverpool score, then writing this down as a rule to be used to predict human behaviour and passing it on to every other alien as completely reliable.

Actually, that probably makes more rational sense... :-)

At least the alien in your example is noting down a response which is definitely directly related to a particular stimulus - instead of, like astrologers, assuming without an adequate, solid, objective foundation of evidence, that something that most human beings don't even pay any attention to, somehow, for some unknown reason, either correlates with or causes human behavior/events.

As for my comments about the general nature of wording of predictions I am not sure I got it across well, and you do seem a little contradictory here.

Sorry about that... :-) I understood what you were saying. I just changed my tune a bit since I suddenly realized I had forgotten something.

And now you seem to be saying astrology can give pretty detailed information (not specific but detailed) when before you seemed to say that it could only be general. Did you change your mind or did I miss something?

Before, I was only outlining a single chart factor - transiting Jupiter conjunct midheaven. Unless I'm mistaken, a single chart factor, by itself, _is_ that general. If you look no more deeply than that, you can't really get very specific. So, I didn't have things _totally_ wrong before.

But, as I was writing my previous message, I realized suddenly I had been focusing too much on just that one chart factor by itself, and forgetting about all the other details that would be present that astrologers might take into account which _could_ possibly suggest additional details. (Even though those, too, probably wouldn't be expected by astrologers to necessarily be infallible, and there would still be a large variety of ways for something to seem to "fit").

So, I was correcting my previous oversight.

Well I hate to be predictable (I'm sure you saw it coming), but what use is it then?

Same old answer - no very practical use, or at least that's my opinion... :-)

Big Al wrote:

Apollia,

I was interested to see you talk about "sun square Pluto". Now, one argument I have seen for why nobody is able to say how the rules of astrology work is because their discovery is buried in the dim and distant past, when we all lived in the forest and nobody lived anywhere else, and when we were all much more attuned to nature.

However, Pluto can't come under that classification.

Ahh! That's an excellent point! :-)

Somebody, somewhere, therefore, must have worked out the characteristic infleuences of Pluto within living memory.

Yes, that's very logical. Wish I had thought of that... :-)

How was this done?

Well, I don't know for sure. But it would probably be possible to find out. It might be an interesting question to ask on a message board devoted to astrology.

I don't have the resources to research this question in depth, but, as I believe I mentioned before, probably a lot was simply inspired by the mythology associated with the Roman god Pluto, which Pluto is named after.

(On an astrology forum, I once jokingly asked a question like, what might have happened to astrology if Pluto had been named Marshmallow instead of Pluto - but, unfortunately no one answered me... :-) )

I happen to own a small astrology booklet titled Speculation, apparently published sometime between August-December 11, 1930 (which I transcribed and put on my website), and it makes no mention whatsoever of Pluto, which I found interesting because it shows that not all astrologers started jumping on the Pluto bandwagon right away as soon as it was discovered and named. Some still haven't - some only use the planets up to (and including) Saturn.

However, it seems like over time, various (though not all) astrologers apparently made up their minds that Scorpio is the sign which most seems to match the nature of Pluto, and hence that Pluto rules Scorpio (or is the co-ruler, with Mars).

So, I assume probably the meanings that astrologers had somehow came up with over thousands of years for Scorpio and the 8th house (which Scorpio is associated with, since Scorpio is the 8th sign) probably got mixed into the astrological meaning of Pluto, together with the notions derived from the myths related to Pluto.

Another way the astrological interpretations of Pluto might have been derived is a highly unscientific process of observation.

Since most people at some point in their lives have major Pluto transits going on in their chart, that means any astrologers interested in Pluto would quite likely have their own past history available to think back on, and try to see if any notable events occurred during various Pluto transits.

Or if they had any ongoing Pluto transits, they might've watched carefully for anything that seemed like it could fit that transit.

What rules were consulted to allow this?

No idea... :-)

Did the gnostic ancients actually have processes predicated on the discovery of a new planet? Wow!

No idea, but it would be interesting if they did... :-)

And then, what happens if you neglect the contributions of Pluto (and, arguably Sedna, Quaoar, Neptune and Uranus, which were all discovered in historical time)? Do they invalidate the findings of earlier horoscopes?

Hmm... well, I don't know. Perhaps no more than the discovery of ultraviolet light invalidated previous observations that the sun emanates visible light.

Sorry to make an analogy involving real science in a discussion about astrology... :-)

I really don't know how well that analogy might fit. To this day, most astrologers still don't pay much attention to Sedna and Quaoar, and I don't really know that much about chart interpretations done prior to the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

What about the Asteroid Belt?

A lot of astrologers think it's possible to get by just fine without asteroids, but some consider them to potentially provide additional detail.

Why did anyone believe in these horoscopes in the first place, if the accuracy was skewed by failing to take into account these bodies, which do seem to be at least important enough to take into account?

I haven't really heard of any astrologers considering horoscopes to be hopelessly skewed by the lack of asteroids, the outer planets, etc., but, there might be some, I don't know everything about astrology. :-)

This is what I really, really want to know: what made anyone suspect the life influences of the planets in the first place? What made someone sit down and write these complicated rules? How did he or she work them out, especially when working with very incomplete data?

Excellent questions. I'd love to know that myself... :-)

The beginning of my next post (which I'm going to post momentarily), in reply to the original blog post, provides some rather lame speculations in regard to that.

I would have expected that the correlation would be strong enough that it would draw your attention. Strong enough that lots of people would notice it. If so, why can't we see it (or at least agree on it) today?

Maybe because it doesn't exist after all... :-)

Either that, or it is rather subtle and difficult to measure objectively.

Or did some high priest look to reinforce his influence on some ancient king by making something up?

That's always a distinct possibility... :-)

OK, now I'm finally replying to the original blog post... :-)

Skeptico wrote:

Can you test astrology to see if it works?

I certainly hope so... :-)

If you can’t, how do you know if it does work?

I really don't know if there's a way to know without testing it... :-)

And how did anyone work out all the detailed rules of astrology if they couldn’t test it to see if the rules were right?

Ooh, nice question.

Well, perhaps it has something to do with "intuition". Or, to provide an even more annoying speculation - divine inspiration... :-) Perhaps the information simply came to them through some unknown means, without them having to test anything - perhaps they just "knew".

Or else, they just made it up... :-)

There were two tests. In the first test, subjects were asked to pick their own horoscope out of three (their own and two controls).

Oh, OK, that answers my question about what "two controls" meant. Now I get it... :-)

Apollia’s comment raised for me an interesting point – how do you determine the actual personality traits of a person, in a way that they can be compared with what astrology predicts they will be?

Yes, I think that's one of the trickiest things about any effort to test astrology - at least any form of astrology that involves people's personalities.

Nice list.

Ask the subject

This is test # 1 from the Nature article. A criticism of this is that the subject may not be sufficiently self-aware to select an accurate description of himself from a group of three, and/or might be unwilling to “admit” to certain negative characteristics that he might in fact have. The Nature article agreed that this would be a problem, and concluded that because of this, test # 1 was a poor test of astrology.

I guess I already commented on this exact test, but a variation on it might be good. (Hmm, not sure if I already mentioned this before or not, I've written so much but I don't feel like looking back at what I already wrote... :-) )

Maybe the subject could write a self-description, putting in whatever they feel like saying - then, that could be passed to an astrologer (along with two other self-descriptions by other people who are not the subject), and the astrologer would attempt to pick which self-description is actually by the subject by studying the subject's chart diagram.

Ask friends of the subject

This would get around the problem of the subject not wanting to admit to an undesirable characteristic.

Yes...

However, this method assumes that other people know the subject better than he or she does. While this might be true in some cases, it is likely to be less true in others.

Definitely.

As with “ask the subject”, you would need first to determine scientifically that friends could select accurate descriptions of the subject.

Ask an some other third party expert to assess the subject

Again, you would need scientific evidence that these experts could select accurate descriptions of strangers, based on interview or other methods.

I'm guessing various people's abilities to create accurate, recognizable descriptions of people probably vary a lot from person to person.

Actually, maybe the test could involve all three - the astrologer could be given three sets of descriptions, each set consisting of a self-description by the subject, description by a friend or friends, and a description by an expert.

Could maybe throw in a CPI test and a description by a different astrologer (who hasn't seen the chart of the person) to boot.


Though, on the other hand, perhaps giving the astrologer _all_ those things would simply make things too complicated... :-)

But, it might be interesting to see how much the self-description, different friends' descriptions, different experts' descriptions, descriptions by different astrologers, and the CPI coincide (and don't coincide).


Hmm, I just thought of a problem with the "evaluation by a different astrologer" idea. An astrologer who can guess the person's approximate age will likely be able to judge what signs some planets beyond Mars are most likely in.

So, having anyone who knows anything about astrology involved in writing descriptions might not be a good idea, because they could probably insert relatively obvious clues - whether they're really true or not - like "This person has an undercurrent of darkness and intensity, and seems to have a rather idealistic view of authority, despite being sort of vague, gloomy and cynical at times" if the subject is of, for instance, the Pluto in Scorpio/Neptune in Capricorn generation, etc.

Which could maybe skew the results, since it may amke it easier for the astrologer doing the actual guessing to guess better than chance.

In addition, you would need to demonstrate that the expert could accurately match this information to a horoscope,

If the expert is the one doing the guessing, but the expert doesn't know anything about astrology, then some astrologers will probably complain, "how can someone who knows nothing about astrology test astrology?"

or that the descriptions could be accurately conveyed to the astrologers who would match them to a horoscope.

That might be interesting to try.

Ask the astrologer to assess the subject

This is basically Apollia’s idea. But here we would be assuming that an astrologer could select an accurate personality description more often than the subject, the subject’s friends or an expert psychologist. I don’t think astrologers necessarily have training in this area, so it’s hard to see how this would be true.

Well, I don't think they necessarily need to be capable of comprehensively judging all there is to know about a person.

They could simply note a few really obvious-seeming characteristics, and, as I think I already mentioned somewhere, another possible test of astrology might be for them to simply guess about whether various uncommon chart factors are present in that person's chart (like sun square Pluto only being present in about 10% of charts).

But there is a much bigger problem with this method. There would be a huge possibility of sensory leakage – other ways the astrologer would have of “finding out” details of the subjects’ natal charts.

Yes. I guess one example might be, being able to estimate a person's age just based on what they look like.

Just knowing a person's approximate age can give you some details about a person's chart - however, far from all details, so I wouldn't regard that as much of a concern, since I doubt it's possible to estimate ages so well that it could totally ruin all tests of astrology.

I'm having a hard time thinking of other types of "sensory leakage". Anyone have any other examples?

Any valid test has to be securely controlled to prevent all other ways (other than astrology) for the astrologers to pick the correct chart. Any test that allowed the astrologers to spend time with the subjects would be deeply flawed and therefore invalid.

Yes, quite possibly. Fortunately, as I mentioned before, I think no interaction is necessary.

Use a standardized test such as the CPI

I guess I already explained my perspectives on this enough, so I'll skip this.

But the burden of proof is clearly with astrologers to demonstrate that astrology can pass a test to demonstrate that it works, not with skeptics to show it doesn’t.

Yes. :-)

Conclusion

There is one thing I want to be clear about here. If none of these methods are acceptable, and if astrology can’t be tested, then it means that astrology is almost certainly bogus. For one, astrology’s doubtful provenance (no known method by which it is supposed to work, no known way its rules were derived, its absurd premises), mean we need extraordinary evidence that it works.

Agreed.

By this I mean better evidence that we demand for many other things. But we are only offered poor evidence – anecdotes that are biased by the Forer Effect and confirmation bias.

Yes, most people interested in astrology don't seem to be very especially interested in testing it.

If I were wealthy, I'd certainly set about trying to seriously test astrology. (Along with doing many far more worthwhile things, of course, like trying to end poverty, giving away grants to wipe out people's debt to predatory lenders, etc. Actually, maybe I'd postpone researching astrology until after significant progress was made in ending poverty).

Hmm, speaking of anecdotes - there's a book by the inventor of the Bell helicopter, Arthur Young, called Nested Time: An Astrological Autobiography. I haven't yet read it, and I don't even own it yet, and I don't think I've ever even seen an excerpt from it, but, I've been wondering what skeptics might think of that book. Even I find it puzzling that someone regarded as a brilliant inventor was into astrology.

And for two, if astrology can’t be tested, then clearly no one would ever have been able to work out all the detailed rules astrologers use in the first place. How would they have been able to work out the rules if there is no way of ever testing them to see if they were right?

Lame methods like intuition, gut feelings, subjective judgments of/observations on people's personalities, etc.?

So either astrology can be tested – so astrologers, please tell us how. (And so far it has failed all well designed tests.)

OK, I already gave some ideas.

Or it can’t be tested –

I think it probably can. Hopefully. :-) I think possibly it's just very tricky, probably at least in part because personality is a very subjective thing, very difficult to measure, etc.

For instance, one person could interpret someone declaring, "I'm wonderful!" as evidence of true arrogance, snobbery, and looking down on other people; another could interpret it as evidence of insecurity; another could interpret it as indicative of perfectly healthy self-esteem.

so astrologers please tell us how its rules were derived

I guess I explained, or speculated, a bit about that already.

and how you know it works.

I don't know that it works... :-)

Which is it? Because it can’t be both.

I think it can be tested. I hope... :-)

Well, it's looking more and more like it's going to be a while before I can begin really working on the challenges.

So, I was wondering if it would be OK for me to post a thread on alt.astrology.moderated and invite folks over here to participate in the discussions and/or take the challenges?

That might keep you all entertained in my protracted absences. (And I'd find it interesting myself).

Since not all astrologers agree on everything, and a lot of the folks there are very knowledgeable about astrology and have many more years of experience with it than I have, they might have some interesting and different things to add. And they might even disagree with me on various things.

I wouldn't be surprised if no one showed up, though - it's not the most active forum in the world, for one thing. But, if they did show up, it might be interesting.

I also would like to post a thread over there asking Big Al's question about how the astrological meaning of Pluto was figured out (or concocted), because I find it a very interesting question and I'm curious about the answer(s) myself.

So, please let me know if it's all right.

Best wishes,
Apollia

On an astrology forum, I once jokingly asked a question like, what might have happened to astrology if Pluto had been named Marshmallow instead of Pluto - but, unfortunately no one answered me... :-)

Why am I not surprised? ;)

Some still haven't - some only use the planets up to (and including) Saturn.

Well, at least that's sorta honest. They are the naked-eye planets that would have been known to the "ancients".

However, it seems like over time, various (though not all) astrologers apparently made up their minds that Scorpio is the sign which most seems to match the nature of Pluto, and hence that Pluto rules Scorpio (or is the co-ruler, with Mars).

I find it interesting that many of the constellations were thought to represent quite different animals or things to ancient Sumerians, Chinese and ancient Arabs (who were great naked-eye-astronomers), and they wrote their horoscopes accordingly. They must have often clashed ("since the planet Cuddles is moving into the constellation Softie, the 11th of September is going to be a great day for you!") in . And yet, presumably, they all just knew they were right.

So, I assume probably the meanings that astrologers had somehow came up with over thousands of years for Scorpio and the 8th house (which Scorpio is associated with, since Scorpio is the 8th sign) probably got mixed into the astrological meaning of Pluto, together with the notions derived from the myths related to Pluto.

Who says it's the 8th house? Why not the 1st house? What if you include more minor constellations?

Another way the astrological interpretations of Pluto might have been derived is a highly unscientific process of observation.

You seem really very open-minded (in the real and proper sense). It astounds me that you're still willing to entertain the concept that it really works.

Since most people at some point in their lives have major Pluto transits going on in their chart, that means any astrologers interested in Pluto would quite likely have their own past history available to think back on, and try to see if any notable events occurred during various Pluto transits.

Ditto for Uranus and Neptune after they were discovered. That's one-third of the major planets. And yet horoscopes were still accurate enough to convince people, even with all the major events they governed that nobody predicted?

Or if they had any ongoing Pluto transits, they might've watched carefully for anything that seemed like it could fit that transit.

Or they might just have made it up on the spot.

Hmm... well, I don't know. Perhaps no more than the discovery of ultraviolet light invalidated previous observations that the sun emanates visible light.

Sorry to make an analogy involving real science in a discussion about astrology... :-)

Yes, indeed! ;) a) Ultraviolet is not a visible light wavelength to us, so it would not invalidate that fact. b) It was discovered as a result of anomalies that classical light theories could not explain. c) The so-called "ultraviolet catastrophe" led to the formulation of quantum mechanics.

This is how science works and unlike how astrology works. We can all see that the Sun shines. That baseline is obvious, and led to the study of optics. Why are the basic tenets of astrology not equally clear?

Again, what was so obvious and eye-catching about astrology that it moved some ancient sage to sit down and start investigating it? If it takes expert and arcane analysis to do this, what made anyone ever suspect?

I wrote:

On an astrology forum, I once jokingly asked a question like, what might have happened to astrology if Pluto had been named Marshmallow instead of Pluto - but, unfortunately no one answered me... :-)

Big Al replied:

Why am I not surprised? ;)

:-) Well, to be fair, it was a question buried in a much longer post. It probably would have gotten some responses if I had made a whole thread devoted to only that question.

I find it interesting that many of the constellations were thought to represent quite different animals or things to ancient Sumerians, Chinese and ancient Arabs (who were great naked-eye-astronomers),

Yes...

and they wrote their horoscopes accordingly.

Something I should read more about. I'm only knowledgeable about standard, western, modern, tropical astrology.

They must have often clashed

That's what I would guess too. :-)

("since the planet Cuddles is moving into the constellation Softie, the 11th of September is going to be a great day for you!")

Hahaha... :-)

And yet, presumably, they all just knew they were right.

It would be interesting for someone knowledgeable about various different systems of astrology to try to account for/explain the contradictions between them.


I wrote:

So, I assume probably the meanings that astrologers had somehow came up with over thousands of years for Scorpio and the 8th house (which Scorpio is associated with, since Scorpio is the 8th sign) probably got mixed into the astrological meaning of Pluto, together with the notions derived from the myths related to Pluto.

Big Al replied:

Who says it's the 8th house?

A lot of astrologers... :-)

Why not the 1st house?

Well, maybe because it's difficult to think up a obvious-seeming, natural-seeming justification for associating Scorpio with the 1st house.

What if you include more minor constellations?

Well, the signs aren't exactly the same thing as the constellations. There are astrologers who pay attention to "fixed stars", but other than that, the constellations and stars themselves aren't very important in standard, western, tropical astrology (though in sidereal astrology, they might be; I don't know much about sidereal astrology, though).

I don't think I know all the correct terminology to describe this, but, the 12 signs are all equally-sized, 30-degree portions of something (the ecliptic?), while the constellations are all of differing sizes, some large, some small.

The signs are named after notable constellations which once occupied those 30-degree spaces (though due to precession the constellations are moving away from the original signs they were in).

In tropical, non-sidereal astrology, the signs stay put no matter how much precession is going on, and where the constellations are in relation to them doesn't matter at all. In sidereal astrology, though, I think some effort is made to keep up with precession. Again, I don't really know much about sidereal astrology, though.

I often have wondered what to make of all the discrepancies between various forms of astrology. It's something I haven't looked into very much yet, but I would probably find it rather interesting.

You seem really very open-minded (in the real and proper sense). It astounds me that you're still willing to entertain the concept that it really works.

Thank you... :-)

Ditto for Uranus and Neptune after they were discovered. That's one-third of the major planets. And yet horoscopes were still accurate enough to convince people, even with all the major events they governed that nobody predicted?

I guess the horoscopes must have still managed to give at least an illusion of accuracy to some people.


I wrote:

Or if they had any ongoing Pluto transits, they might've watched carefully for anything that seemed like it could fit that transit.

Big Al replied:

Or they might just have made it up on the spot.

Yep, forgot to mention that. :-)


I wrote:

Hmm... well, I don't know. Perhaps no more than the discovery of ultraviolet light invalidated previous observations that the sun emanates visible light.

Sorry to make an analogy involving real science in a discussion about astrology... :-)

Big Al replied:

Yes, indeed! ;) a) Ultraviolet is not a visible light wavelength to us, so it would not invalidate that fact. b) It was discovered as a result of anomalies that classical light theories could not explain. c) The so-called "ultraviolet catastrophe" led to the formulation of quantum mechanics.

Wow, I didn't know that. :-)

This is how science works and unlike how astrology works. We can all see that the Sun shines. That baseline is obvious, and led to the study of optics. Why are the basic tenets of astrology not equally clear?

I don't know, but, it's too bad they aren't. :-)

Again, what was so obvious and eye-catching about astrology that it moved some ancient sage to sit down and start investigating it?

Maybe nothing was so obvious and eye-catching - mystically-minded people are often moved to do bizarre, random things just because they feel as if God (or gods) or Fate or something wants them to.

If it takes expert and arcane analysis to do this, what made anyone ever suspect?

Don't know. Total speculation, but maybe even something like dreams could have inspired them. :-)

It's possible even for scientists to have valid but subtle ideas they might not otherwise have thought of, come to mind in a dream. Here's a page which mentions an anecdote about a scientist who dreamed of a snake swallowing its tail, which gave him the correct idea about the structure of benzene.


I still would like to post to alt.astrology.moderated and invite people over here, and also ask your question about how Pluto's astrological meaning was figured out (or created). Is that OK, Skeptico and Big Al?

I just thought I should maybe ask here first if I should post the link to this blog or not - in case anyone is just not in the mood to deal with various astrologers possibly showing up suddenly... :-)

Apollia

Oops, looks like some HTML formatting got messed up somewhere. Looks like there must be a stray, unclosed [b] (bold) tag somewhere. Odd, my post looked OK in the preview. Well, sorry if I messed that up.

Apollia

[Edit by Skeptico - closed tag]

Apollia

You can post a link to alt.astrology.moderated if you wish. I think the problem may be that they don't want their beliefs examined under the microscope rather than that we can't handle their responses.

Thanks. :-)

OK, the invitation is posted. Here's the link to my post.

I think the problem may be that they don't want their beliefs examined under the microscope

Depends on the person, I think. Hopefully some are open to it... :-)

rather than that we can't handle their responses.

I'm sure you can, that's why I was interested in inviting them - it should be a pretty interesting discussion. Hopefully some will show up. :-)

Apollia

Big Al, I looked over your chart a bit. I'll share some of my interpretations, but first I would like to point out that I'm being considerate and respectful, and that I would appreciate the same in return.

Here's a link to your chart. I wouldn't normally "show my work" and explain the astrological reasoning, because it makes things confusing. But I believe that's a requirement for astrologers at this particular blog, no?

Okay. Your Moon is in Gemini, which is a rather intellectual sign for an emotional planet. I've noticed that Gemini Moons sometimes have a thing for Star Trek. Perhaps the Data character, with his intellectualized and basically nonexistent emotional nature is part of the appeal there.

Also, in your chart the planet Neptune is conjunct to the Sun, Mercury,and Venus. This suggests to me that you probably have an inner poet somewhere. And if I combined your Gemini Moon with your Mercury-Neptune conjunction in the 10th, I'd say that you might enjoy a career authoring works of fantasy or science fiction.


It's very likely that you have a strong artistic streak. With Venus ruling your MC in Libra, maybe music could be an outlet for your inspired sense of aesthetics?

The artistic sensibility is there, but with so many hard aspects to Mars it suggests that your energy can get easily frustrated. With Mars squaring your stellium in Scorpio, the possibility of your idealism and inspiration becoming frustrated, and then resulting in disillusionment is high.

But, that's all the further I'm going to go, since this will probably just provoke derision anyway.

OK, pixiequix, I was more than a little impressed at first.

The teensy trouble is that I then realised a single click on my handle takes you to my website which tells you:

a) I'm a SFF/fantasy author
b) I'm a semi-pro musician
c) I like to play chess and read a lot: by ellipsis, it's a fair assumption that I'll tend to prefer intellectual activities to physical ones.

All that is available on my website.

The comment about my artisitic sensitivity and potential disillusionment is a lot more general (equally applicable to any number of people), but it actually misses the mark. I'm actually very determined and very hard to put off. I like to keep my ideals realistic and achievable, so I never set them too high. Although I have artisitic leanings, I'm an engineer by training and inclination.

Of course, if you could tell me something this detailed about me that isn't on my website, I'd be really impressed.

But I didn't look at your website.  I took a couple minutes the other day to look over your chart, and then I jotted down some thoughts, and posted them here. It never even occured to me to click on your name in the comments here, but I learned a little earlier today that someone can do just that.

I looked at your website this morning, but that was more than 20 hours after I posted my comment. I wanted to see if I could confirm any of what I said, after coming back and seeing that no one had responded yet.  I remember thinking, "I was right the fuck on!"   Then I realized that you'd probably say something along the lines of exactly what you did say.

How convenient for your cynical disposition that you have this lovely cop out. Not to mention that it's a little bit insulting. That's just fine with you though, because on some level you enjoy being a jerk.

Why is that such an unreasonable assumption, pixiequix? Why am I such a jerk for accepting the obvious conclusion?

If I said I could tell you your bank account number by numerology, and you then realised one of your bank statements had been lying face up on the table the whole time, are you really telling me it would be unreasonable not to believe me if I protested noisily that I'd never even looked at it?

I don't understand your annoyance here. Ever heard of Occam's Razor?

Sorry, pixiequix. That was me.

Then why the hell did you even bother putting the offer out there? Did you just enjoy feeling that you had a cop out all along? What was the fucking point?

Also, I feel like there's something that's expected of me. But it's something that I just won't do. I refuse to use astrology as a weapon, or as a tool for my own personal vendettas.

You wanna know something that I don't believe is on your website Al? Your own superiority complex gets in the way of your becoming acquainted with the God force, that all encompassing energy that is the essence of life itself. You want to reject getting in touch with it, and so you do.

Learn humility. Learn to embrace humility and new worlds will open up for you.

Sorry about the multiple post. ^.^;

No problem - duplicates deleted -- Skeptico

Er... a bit touchy, aren't you? I asked for someone to come up with something about me based on my birth sign. I didn't tell them what to say. However, you came up with things that are plain to see on my website.

I don't see that as a spurious get-out at all. I have lots of personality facets that aren't covered on my website.

Among them is the enjoyment of reasonable debate, without the need to resort to the verb "to fuck" or its gerund.

I would have thought a reasonable reaction on our part would have been "Oh, gosh, I can see how that could look bad, but I promise I didn't look at the site." Not raging abuse.

You're hardly likely to convince anyone by raving, pixiequix. As for telling someone to learn humility, how about wiping the drool from your chin and saying that while looking in the mirror.

It's called adult language for a reason, I'm sorry I assumed you were an adult.

Here:

Oh, gosh, I can see how that could look bad, but I promise I didn't look at the site.

I feel like I took some time to do something nice, and essentially get called a liar. I figured you'd find some way to weasel around my interpretations being right, but it still offends me. Wouldn't you be offended if you felt that way?

I don't find scatological language adult, pixiequix, but the last resort of the linguistically empoverished. It certainly doesn't impress me as a particularly crushing debate-winner.

I didn't make any offer. I was asked for my birthdate and time in another thread by another person. You then aked if that was a.m. or p.m. and I responded. I didn't ask you to do me any favours. I didn't under any circumstances promise to believe if someone "divined" some readily retrievable data about me.

I didn't promise anything at all, and I didn't ask for anything. Kindly direct me to the post where I did. I certainly never "set anyone up" by somehow mentally making them zoom in on the info that just happened to be on my website, so that I could employ a pre-planned getout.

You did whatever you did and then abused me when I pointed out a far simpler way you could have divined this: a click of the mouse on this very site.

Your language and your juvenile tantrums don't impress me in the least. However, if I've been at all unfair in the way I've trated you here, I'm sure other posters will point it out to me. Perhaps you'd care to explain to me how I've been unfair to you, how I'e set you up or how I've weaselled out of anything.

I am extremely surprised that you find it so unreasonable of me to believe a perfectly rational explanation over an extraordinary one, instead of trying to convince me.


BTW, I guess you like to read astrological books, and you regard yourself as more spiritual than materialistic.

Convinced of my powers?

wow, Al, you sure convinced me. next you'll be telling me i'm interested in information security.
maybe you should be on TV.

Lepht

No, no, that honour belongs to pixiequix. She's the one with the eldritch powers.

Might take a lot of post-production editing to lose the swearing, though.


ASTROLOGY A SCIENCE OR MYTH

No body has ever tried to investigate as to what was the level of information of sages about the Universe, who developed astrological principles in primitive age and what procedure was adopted to formulate various principles.

In primitive age it was believed that Earth is in the centre of the Universe and stationary (it is also believed in all religions). Beside this it was also believed (you may read any old scriptures) that Sun is nearer from the Earth, whereas Moon is beyond Sun. All constellations are situated in between Mercury and Moon. You may be surprised to know that all astrological principles are actually fabricated around this concept.

Actually predictive astrology is not a science at all. Only astronomy and psychology (discovered only in last 200 years) was used unknowingly by our sages for some prediction and it appears correct.

I wrote two original books on astrology containing full details. You may write to sanatkumar_jain@rediffmail.com
sanat

Helloo skeptics

Its gregory from the "unsinkable rubber ducks" post below. Remember me? We had some good communications down there.

Well I wanted to give you some good news to illuminate this dark corridor which is the current mental environment, and which must seem at times to rational folks such as yourselves to be getting darker.

So, I wanted to let you all know that I'm one person who didnt regress back to woofull ways and that i've been ignoring planetary positions entirely.

Additionally, I have a lady friend, whom I am remarkably compatible with, emotionally, practically, and sexually, and yet, when I got around to looking at her chart, the interpretation I would have given it in my chart reading days would have found very little in common.

In fact, I wouldn't have identified much potential for relationship in our charts at all. Yet reality says otherwise.... and that matters so much more than illogical prejudices and hopeful preconceptions.

Of course, and this is for all you astrology believers, if I had wanted to, I could have found all sorts of connections in our charts, and I could have come up with a reasonable description of our relationship, based either on my own hopes or my own fears, which was in accord with the aspects I found there. But I now realize that I could do that no matter what the chart said and thats the spike in the heart of the whole story.

It's called confirmation bias.

As a former astrologer who clearly understands what was going on in my thoughts when I'd evaluate a birth chart, I challenge any believers out there to learn exactly what confirmation bias is, and then to honestly tell me that it doesn't happen to them.

yours,
g

Well said, gregory. That must have taken some courage.

I don't have time for this. I am figuring through my astrology figures after the stock market correction fell on a Venus retrograde conjunct Vesta as expected. You flat earther sceptics are such a pain.

Oh gregory. You must have been a pretty bad astrologer. Glad I didn't ever get an analysis by you. If you were trying to confirm your own expectations then you were not being scientific in your study. Didn't you ever do a written analysis of someone you didn't know to find it was so true when you met them. If you flat earthers can't see that cardinal signs think for the present time, fixed signs look to the future and mutable signs look to the past then you are not very perceptive.

Gregory:

Yes I remember you – you are one of the few people who was actually able to change his mind about something when the evidence contradicted his previous beliefs. That is quite an achievement. I hope your new relationship works out well for you.

Rob/Robert:

So you think Gregory was a bad astrologer? OK, then tell us how come the 28 expert astrologers chosen by the National Council for Geocosmic Research performed no better than pure chance? To answer that you'll need to read the previous discussion with Gregory, learn about conformation bias, and grow up. Or not – up to you.

"I don't have time for this. I am figuring through my astrology figures after the stock market correction fell on a Venus retrograde conjunct Vesta as expected."

Rob/Robert:

Yes, you really don't have time for this if you play the stock market based on the angles between celestial bodies. Instead, you should probably be out looking for a real job so you can win back all your money.

Have you learned what confirmation bias is yet?

I'll tell you what it is: Its the thing that makes you think that astrology works.

Some people get the same surefire results from looking randomly at street signs, at clouds, at their fingernails. You look at planetary positions. And call it science.

Good luck in the stock market.

g

I don't have time for this.

Well, gee, Rob/Robert, I'm so sorry we twisted your arm, put a gun to your head and frogmarched you to the keyboard. And to cap it all, a skeptic website dares to conceal its true nature under the misleading name, "Skeptico"! Shame on all of us for wasting poor Rob's precious time!

I am figuring through my astrology figures after the stock market correction fell on a Venus retrograde conjunct Vesta as expected.

I imagine you sold all your relevant stock well in advance of the correction and then bought it back at a pittance just at the right time? You must be an enormously rich man if astrology always gives you tips years in advance!

Venus being retrograde or posigrade is a cyclical thing, as is Vesta's orbit, so I guess all the other astrologers have standing orders with their brokers to buy or sell at certain times of the year. You'd think it would be a well-known phenomenon that astrologers did supernaturally well on the stock market...

Unfortunately, I can't find a word about it on the Web. Perhaps you'd like to give us evidence that the stock market follows predictable patterns?

You flat earther sceptics are such a pain.

It was sceptical scientists who showed that the world was round, Rob. It was the astrologers and priests who just knew it was flat. Left to them, we'd still be using stone tools and dying at thirty. That was the most ridiculous modifier to the noun "sceptic" I've ever seen!

First I'd like to thank Apollia for posting on this site - even if it's just to add some question marks to Astrologers and the rubber duck theory.

Second. Lads, you're dead right. Western Astrology is not something that can be scientifically tested in its current format and as such, holds absolutely no authority when it comes to predicting the future or the career path right for you. I repeat. Astrology is not a science - not even a pseudo science. And yes, I've been practising informal (non-profit) Astrology for just under six years.

Personally speaking, I see Astrology as a mathematical model for understanding human nature - a framework that someone could use to relate to someone else or define oneself by. Like any label, it has it's advantages and disadvantages. I find it useful because it addresses a lot of archetypes, and tends to raise questions as opposed to giving answers.

That does not mean that Astrology is accurate, or infallible. Put simply, if we were to send colonists to planet X outside the solar system, their sun is not going to be the same sun as our sun - so what would happen to Sun Sign Astrology? Does this mean that the Astrologers amongst these hypothetical colonists would have to reinvent the entire system from scratch? Of course not.
People are people, whether they live in this solar system, or in a hypothetical one light years away - humanity tends to do the same things over and over again in a slightly altered format, history can teach us that much at least.
Astrological models are based on observations and patterns of human behaviour - within the Astrological model an Air person is likely to talk a lot, that does not imply that ALL Air persons talk a lot, but that there is a significant percentage that does. And what then, defines an Air Person? Well - that depends on the Astrologer, and on his or her reading of the chart, and the importance that he or she bases on certain factors in that chart. I.E. It's an entirely subjective interpretation that outlines a possibility, as opposed to a certainty.
The words "freedom of choice" come to mind at this point.

I'll be honest and add that this discussion seems to be missing the point a little. Western Astrology (in it's current format) is decidedly anti-specific and unscientific in its methods. There is no contesting that. If that makes it a useless subject for you to study - that's fine. For those of you who have an interest in relating to other people and who happen to be looking for a psychological framework to work from, Astrology is a possible classification system that one could look into. Oh - and that's not to say that those who've no interest in Astrology have no interest in other people. :)

Here's a question for you:
Why do so many people believe in God? If come tomorrow, everyone would wake up a non-believer, would that necessarily make the World a better place? Perhaps the various religious factions would stop warring - that'd be great - but for all you know violence could continue in the name of a person, or a philosophy, as opposed to a God. For all you know there are people out there who have turned to their Faith to get through the bad patches in life. I am sure that some people are spurred by Faith to do good things. Is that such a bad thing?

Is science the only yardstick on which one should measure the value of a system of thought - or should we look at the function that that system of thought holds within our society, and the lives of certain individuals, as well?

Just my two-pence.

Hi folks. Well, I've been even more busy than I expected these past few months. My financial situation has rather worsened, etc., etc.

I hope no one is disappointed, but, I really don't feel like doing the challenge anymore.

However, Jimmy_Blue and Big Al, if you like, I'll send you a couple computer-generated astrology forecast reports, generated by the Kepler astrology software, for the entire years you wanted predictions for (2006 and 1976).

For only $19.95!!! Hahaha, just kidding. :-) For free, of course.

Oh, also, I forgot before to point out the thread I posted to alt.astrology.moderated, paraphrasing Big Al's question about Pluto: How was the meaning for astrological Pluto figured out or created?

Just thought I'd point that out in case anyone is interested in the discussion. I still have to get back there sometime and reply to all the replies.

Nomadic wrote:

First I'd like to thank Apollia for posting on this site - even if it's just to add some question marks to Astrologers and the rubber duck theory.

You're welcome!

Best wishes,
Apollia

Apollia,

Sorry to hear things have taken a turn for the worse, but I can't help asking. Surely the stars prepared you for your troubles, right?

Feel free to e-mail the astrology software predictions as long as it doesn't cost you anything to get them. As long as Skeptico doesn't object I'll take a look and post some form of results, if not the whole thing and an assessment.

And was it just me that felt a twinge of outrage that some astrology software was named Kepler?

Sorry to hear things have taken a turn for the worse,

Thanks. Anyhow, I'm sure things will work out somehow.

but I can't help asking. Surely the stars prepared you for your troubles, right?

Hahaha... :-) Well, I never have done astrology whilst having any expectation that it would actually improve my life (aside from keeping me entertained from time to time).

Besides, my financial troubles have been so ongoing and long-lasting that I doubt anything in astrology (like a transit, since transits are all of limited duration) could possibly correlate with them.

Unless, perhaps, there's something in my natal chart which suggests a propensity to getting bilked and ripped off (such as by credit card companies). My natal Mercury opposition Neptune, perhaps? :-)

Not to worry, I don't actually believe that has anything to do with it. :-)

I think that in fact, I was just young, naive, desperate, and foolish, and no one ever warned me that credit cards are so dangerous and such a waste of money.

Feel free to e-mail the astrology software predictions as long as it doesn't cost you anything to get them.

For that, I'll need an email address. (I guess you can either post it, or email it to me - xerxes112 at AOL dot com). Also, if you ever found out more exact birth data, I'll use that to generate the report.

As long as Skeptico doesn't object I'll take a look and post some form of results, if not the whole thing and an assessment.

Unfortunately, it's copyrighted. I guess you could request permission from the Kepler software folks, or, just post excerpts.

And was it just me that felt a twinge of outrage that some astrology software was named Kepler?

:-) Well, if it makes you and anyone else feel any better, it's at least some quite nice astrology software. :-)

I have wondered at times what Kepler himself would think of it.

Well, maybe someday I'll run into someone who thinks they're Kepler reincarnated, and I can ask them. ;-)

Best wishes,
Apollia

Apollia

e-mail to jimtyacke@msn.com.

I was born 1 October 1976, Liverpool England, 6:20am

Sent! I'd like to make a prediction now - I predict the reports will not impress you at all. :-) Anyhow, I hope you enjoy dissecting them.

Now, some comments on your chart. Wow, Virgo rising. I never really considered Virgo rising. Though it does suit your obvious intelligence (and skepticism), I guess I thought Virgo rising might be too subdued.

However, sun, Pluto, and Mars in the 1st (placements which aren't thought to be associated with a subdued, submissive nature) might be considered to cancel that out somewhat. Not sure whether I considered the possibility that you had that or not, since it's not in my notes and I unfortunately didn't get around to pondering the question utterly extensively.

As I mentioned before somewhere (here, to be precise), I was leaning toward a fire sign rising (like Aries). This was wrong, since Virgo is an earth sign.

However, perhaps it's interesting (or perhaps not) that you (might) have two of the three astrological planets which rule fire signs in your 1st house. (Possibly all but Jupiter, which rules Sagittarius).

You have the sun (which is considered to rule the fire sign Leo) conjunct the ascendant with a rather wide orb of 10°08'. So, you have have the most massive "fireball" in the solar system in a prominent position in your chart - conjunct the ascendant.

Could this be a justification to consider my tentative, non-final guess about your rising sign ("a fire sign rising, like Aries.") to be not completely wrong - even though technically it's a firy astrological planet rising, rather than a fire _sign_ rising? I don't know, I guess probably not. :-)

And, you possibly have Mars, which rules the fire sign Aries (which is the only sign I actually named as a tentative guess, if I recall correctly), in the 1st - but that depends on what house system you use.

With the Placidus house system your Mars is in the 2nd, but it's in the 1st in the majority of other house systems available in the freeware astrology software Astrolog 5.40. (Western astrologers (I don't know about the rest of the world) aren't really decided as a whole as to which is the correct house system to use, even though Placidus is (I'm guessing) the most common.)

Anyhow, I know the above is probably meaningless, but, I just thought I might as well go ahead and provide a probably lame example of retro-fitting some wrong guesses to the actual facts. :-)

Best wishes,
Apollia

Apollia,

Had a first quick glance (I will be examining it more closely when my wife digs her 2006 journal out), and you are right, not that impressed. Most of the major dates (for me) from 2006 are non-existent in the charts or require some very complimentary and unjustifiable stretching and squeezing to even faintly resemble a hit.

Mostly the charts seem to be the usual broad strokes of the nature of 'It might be good at sometime around here to do something for or to someone and it may or may not work, depending on this or that emotion being in this or the other way.'

Some dates have entries the nature of which are the exact opposite of what occurred around that time, some on the two different charts appear to blatantly contradict each other.

It is hard to grade them on any kind of predictive accuracy because they rarely say anything definitive, and rely almost exclusively on stating emotional states and possibilities, and nothing substantive.

"Your mojo might be good today so you might try something.' is not exactly a system I want to base my decision making on.

Take for example this entry:
June 12, 2006 (June 2, 2006 to June 21, 2006) Sat Sxtil Sun

Good relationships with employers, supervisors, government agencies, parents, and other authority figures assist you now. A person of authority or influence may help you in your work, you may receive recognition or a promotion, or you may sign a contract or agreement of major importance.

Could you paint the picture with a broader brush? Possibly, but you'd lose all the detail. Incidentally, to the best of my knowledge this prediction, one of the few to make an almost definite claim sort of in a round about way, is wrong.

Provided there are no objections, I'll post more hopefully later tomorrow.

And all that stuff about fire signs, I'm sorry but, yeabuhwha?

Anyway, thanks for at least doing this much, that is more than all the other astrologers have done after showing up here mouthing off, only to slink away when asked to put their money where their mouth is.

Mostly the charts seem to be the usual broad strokes of the nature of 'It might be good at sometime around here to do something for or to someone and it may or may not work, depending on this or that emotion being in this or the other way.'

Hahaha... :-) If you write a book of parody astrological interpretations, I'll buy it. :-)

I won't even try to defend those interpretations, I quite agree.

Some dates have entries the nature of which are the exact opposite of what occurred around that time,

Hmm, what _is_ the exact opposite of 'It might be good at sometime around here to do something for or to someone and it may or may not work, depending on this or that emotion being in this or the other way.', anyhow? ;-)

some on the two different charts appear to blatantly contradict each other.

Yes, as I'm sure I mentioned somewhere before, I think an actual astrologer would probably try to blend the contradictory interpretations to eliminate the contradictions.

[...]

Provided there are no objections, I'll post more hopefully later tomorrow.

Looking forward to it.

And all that stuff about fire signs, I'm sorry but, yeabuhwha?

:-) I wonder if even some astrologers might have that reaction. My writing suffers greatly when I rush. I'll try to simplify it a bit.

Each sign is thought to be associated with one of the four classical elements. There are three fire signs, three air signs, three earth signs, three water signs.

I had tentatively guessed that you had a fire sign (like maybe Aries) as your ascendant (some other terms for "ascendant" being "rising sign", or "1st house", or "1st house cusp").

This guess was wrong, since your ascendant is actually Virgo, which is an earth sign. However, your ascendant is far from totally devoid of anything fire-related - because the sun happens to be conjunct your 1st house cusp, and the sun, for obvious reasons, could well be regarded as the most firy astrological planet there is.

(And, you also might - or might not - have Mars, the planet which rules the fire sign of Aries, in the 1st house).

So, while my tentative guess that your ascendant was a fire sign was wrong - in a way, it could almost be seen as perhaps being not totally off the mark, because there is something quite extraordinarily firy about your chart's ascendant - namely, that you have the sun conjunct the 1st house cusp. (And, additionally, there might be Mars in the 1st house).

Anyway, thanks for at least doing this much, that is more than all the other astrologers have done after showing up here mouthing off, only to slink away when asked to put their money where their mouth is.

You're welcome - sorry I couldn't do more, and sorry no one else showed up to attempt it. Maybe sometime in the future I'll be able to do more.

Thanks for all the fascinating discussions. :-)

Best wishes,
Apollia

Each sign is associated with specific reasons and everyone has strong believe over that. So, i think astrology plays an important role everywhere.

Best Astrology: Take your spam and sod off, the grown ups are talking.

Astrology is the science which determines the influence of the stars,especially of the five older planets on the fate of man.According to certain fixed rules the future can be predicted depending upon the position of stars at the time of consideration.Astrology believes in the existence of the 12 houses which are also known as the zodiac sign.The 12 houses or zodiac signs symbolize life,personal property,riches,children,health,marriage and course of life.

I'm tempted to click the link, just to make fun of the contents. (I'm getting really infuriated by some arrogant homeopaths, so some astrologers would be some nice fluff.)

The problem is that it'd probably just encourage them to keep spamming.

Astrology is the science
Wrong. Science is based on evidence. Astrology is based on arbitrary patterns in stars that are nowhere near one another.
which determines the influence of the stars
Through what mechanism? The doctor who pulls you out of your mother has a greater gravitational influence on you than anything else in the solar system at the time of your birth (excluding Earth).
especially of the five older planets
All the planets in our solar system are about the same age. And none of them are stars.

on the fate of man.

How?

According to certain fixed rules the future can be predicted depending upon the position of stars at the time of consideration.
What rules? Which stars? To what degree of accuracy? How were these rules determined? How might they be falsified?
Astrology believes in the existence of the 12 houses which are also known as the zodiac sign.
Astronomy says there's no such thing. The stars in individual "signs" of the zodiac only appear close to one another because of the vantage point of Earth. Because they are so distant, they look like they're all the same distance away, when in fact they tend to be quite far apart from one another. In other words, the only reason we see "signs" is because we lack depth perception.
The 12 houses or zodiac signs symbolize life,personal property,riches,children,health,marriage and course of life.
Blibbity-bloo-blah-blah. Symbolism is great for mythology and literature, but where in the hell does it fit into "science"? You don't hear nuclear physicists saying "the eight valence electrons symbolize life, liberty, happiness, love, Jesus, Sleepy, Doc, and Dopey," because such a claim is wholly unscientific. Exactly how do you test whether or not some real thing is a symbol of some abstract concept?

Dumbass.

The doctor who pulls you out of your mother has a greater gravitational influence on you than anything else in the solar system at the time of your birth

There is a "your momma" joke in there somewhere.

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