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Astrology: Pseudoscience and Delusion
Posted: 09 August 2008 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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asanta - 09 August 2008 02:47 PM

I believe someone in the US replicated that story, and I think they used Ted Bundy’s info for the horoscope.

Again, I think Randi did this on the NOVA episode, for a Russian astrologer. No idea if a clip of that part is on Youtube though.

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Posted: 10 August 2008 03:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Occam - 09 August 2008 03:14 PM

Quoting Tony Sidaway:

On examining the birth data of 2,000 prominent Frenchmen in the late 1950s, he discovered some apparent correlations.  Particularly, in what he called the “Mars effect”, it seemed that boys born when Mars was in the sky tended to excel in sporting events.

I get a kick out of statistics. 

First, 2000 Frenchmen - I’ll assume the male chauvinst attitude was existent then so it was about 1,000 males and 1,000 females. 

The data was specifically males, because at that time in France women were far less likely to have a career.

According to the researcher Geoffrey Dean who examined this data there is evidence that French parents and doctors manipulated the birth data at the time of birth (in early twentieth century France) due to quasi-astrological folk beliefs that corresponded to Gauquelin’s later findings.  Thus a correlation with parental attributes (the sons of athletes tend to be better at sports, the sons of doctors are more likely to choose a career in medicine, and so on) became linked to parental aspirations expressed through manipulation of the birth data.  This produced a small effect but it was significant enough to throw the French data off.

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Posted: 18 August 2008 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Might the public do better to classify astrology as a spirituality? Nearly all cultures who practiced ancient astrology firmly believed that deities, crystal spheres, or otherwise supernatural forces were responsible for moving heavenly bodies, and it was human responsibility to puzzle the meanings of the positions out.

The first post indicates that the assumption of gravitational forces acting as that power of the planets upon humans is incorrect. Besides this, I’ve met no atheists who believe in astrology. A few Neopagan friends of mine, with whom I recently shared these thoughts, agreed that the force of the planets acting upon people was not scientific but an otherworldly one, indicated by the alchemical axiom “As Above, So Below.” It stems from the previously widely held notion that everything in the heavens is pure, unchanging, and “good,” that the moral and spiritual impurity of people cannot help but be profoundly affected by these untainted perfect creations of God(s) in a way that instruments cannot detect.

Whether it’s daily blurb newspaper astrology or a complex mathematical analysis of a birth chart, the faith component is twofold: faith in the exertion of the planets, and faith that you or the astrologer is correct in their interpretation of where the planets land. The positions of the planets themselves do nothing; calculating those is as much an astronomical scientific pursuit. It’s believing in what they do being in those positions, and believing in the accuracy of the interpretation, that drives astrology.

I can’t imagine why an atheist would freely cast faith to such unpredictability. Unlike other pseudosciences like, say, Ufology, that bases itself in real scientific possibility that life on other planets exists (albeit extending this idea to ludicrous ends), astrology requires dedication to something extending beyond scientific parameters, a baseless faith in forces beyond our physical understanding.

I have no problem with astrologers considering their work a spiritual endeavour, but to claim it a science appears illogical even without testing.

[ Edited: 18 August 2008 06:05 AM by Skeptix ]
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Posted: 18 August 2008 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Welcome to the forum, Skeptix. I do think you’re right that astrology boils down to a species of spirituality. I expect that some believers may claim it is scientific, but that it works via some as-yet-unknown physical force. At any rate, labeling it spiritual won’t demote it in most people’s eyes. Most people are quite happy asserting belief in various “spiritual” practices ...

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Posted: 21 August 2008 04:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Isn’t the entire point of astrology to help assert that we have some special significance in the grand scheme of things? In this, it’s really no different than religion. People would like to think and feel comfortable that there is a presence looking down on them, guiding them and watching them through life. I don’t really see the difference between God and planetary forces, except that the latter is impersonal, but both are revered as governing beyond human capability.

I once posited to an astrologer, who did believe in extraterrestrial life, about how planet Earth would factor into the horoscope of someone on another planet. Suppose at the same time you were casting a birth chart for your friend on Earth, someone on another planet, whose astronomical technology wasn’t quite as up to speed, was looking up into their night sky and using an astrolabe to calculate the position of Earth in the sky relevant to his world. He believes that Earth represents a specific aspect of a horoscope and its position influences character traits. If you’re on Earth revering the stars for guidance, and he’s on his world doing the same thing, wouldn’t you be interfering with his predictions to know that your home is really part of his horoscope? I’m not talking heliocentric astrology (a minor corrective step in the continued wrong direction), but knowing that there’s a life on that world treating it as a home. There couldn’t be identical planetary forces exerting themselves on the two worlds unless you make a great spiritual leap of faith, not a scientific posit. The astrologer claimed that our horoscopes were for us only and that other sentient life shouldn’t be affected.

It’s another reason why astrology seems antiquated to me. It can’t expand beyond a set of parameters to say that, for instance, other constellations like Orion affect us, because the planets don’t appear to pass through that region of space. It assumes that we are the only significance in that scheme of the universe, our personal arrangement of planets just for us. If we end up establishing colonies on other worlds someday, shouldn’t we dismiss astrology as being relevant only to people on Earth? I highly doubt that because of the extreme scientific evolution we’ll have taken to get to that new planet, that we’d revere the new star and planets around us as anything more than natural phenomena.

[ Edited: 21 August 2008 04:04 PM by Skeptix ]
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Posted: 21 August 2008 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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The real question about astrology is, how did they come up with the factors and their weights? It’s not like ancient peoples were big on statistical analysis, and that really only leaves guesswork.

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Posted: 21 August 2008 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 21 August 2008 04:13 PM

The real question about astrology is, how did they come up with the factors and their weights? It’s not like ancient peoples were big on statistical analysis, and that really only leaves guesswork.

IIRC a lot of it was magical thinking, and the notion of like causing like. (Red = anger, so red planet = angry planet, so red planet = warlike, so people born “under” red planet have certain warlike tendencies, etc.) Basically it’s taking metaphors as realities.

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Posted: 21 August 2008 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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My guess is that the majority of factors and weights weren’t agreed upon by consensus but popularized from the results of a handful of manuscripts and treatises written, like the Enuma Anu Enlil tablets or Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos.

It’s also interesting that a large part of the general characteristics of a person is based on the imaginary description of the zodiacal constellation in which the planet rests. If your Sun is in Libra, you’ll be an indecisive person always weighing options. If your Moon is in Taurus, your emotional side will be prone to the stubbornness of a bull. Cancerians are prone to receding from conflict like crabs, and Capricorns risk ostracizing themselves like hermits from society like goats on cold mountains.

Granted these are very general characteristics, but they’re widely popularized. And they’re based on a selection of arbitrary 2D star patterns made in the Middle East and the Mediterranean thousands of years ago. These meaningless constellations survived only because it was more convenient for astronomy to use them rather than map stars and regions of space individually all the time. If different patterns of stars had been chosen, or if the existing constellations had been thought to resemble other things than the twelve established animals, we’d have radically different astrology now, and your personal characteristics would be very different too.

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Posted: 21 August 2008 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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And this tells you everything you need to know about astrology. A fact free ‘expertise’.

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Posted: 21 August 2008 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Skeptix - 21 August 2008 04:34 PM

And they’re based on a selection of arbitrary 2D star patterns made in the Middle East and the Mediterranean thousands of years ago.

Not quite. Some planets were discovered long after babylonian times (uranus, neptune, pluto) and they have been given astrological meanings too. I once noticed that this fact lays a huge responsibility on astronomers: by choosing a name for a newly found celestial object, they have a huge influence on our fortune…

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Posted: 30 September 2008 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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I thought astrology blips in newspapers were suggestions and not predictions at all.. I think they say things like “improve your communication skills” or “invest wisely.”  It never told me “your hamster will die in flames at 2pm today.” tongue wink

more seriously, fate is the thing they seem to rely on telling you when you get your chart done and look into it more in depth but as soon as you tell someone they are heading for a certain type of future I mean we know what happens.. that’s the thread on bias right?

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