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Sticks
2010-Apr-24, 11:00 AM
OK for the record, I do not subscribe to astrology in any way shape or form and cheered when Brian Cox said it was a load of Rubbish.

I was also dismayed when it was revealed that the BBC caved in and issued an apology (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/103056-The-BBC-Caves-in-to-astrologers) for what Brian said

That said, the individual who obtained the apology has written a screed entitled

Why it is no longer acceptable to say astrology is rubbish on a scientific basis.

His thesis, if we can call it that is here (http://www.facebook.com/notes/equinox-astrology/why-it-is-no-longer-acceptable-to-say-astrology-is-rubbish-on-a-scientific-basis/389521253320) on Facebook.

The question is, how do we answer his assertions, (Without getting personal)

BTW if anyone thinks this is in the wrong thread and should be in ATM, let us know. I do not advocate astrology at all, just to be clear. I am at one with Phil Plait on this one.

noncryptic
2010-Apr-24, 11:39 AM
The BBC's actions are possibly inspired by the fact that libel laws in the UK are very favorable to the plaintiff in that if the 'libel' is in fact true, that does not carry much weight.
The reasoning seems to be "the more true, the more damaging, the more libelous". Something similar is true elsewhere (ie NDA's in Big Tobacco - see the non-fiction film "The Insider"), but the UK is somewhat famous for it.

Science writer Simon Singh wins libel appeal after 'Orwellian nightmare'
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/apr/01/science-writer-wins-libel-appeal


I'd keep it simple: ignore it and continue to say astrology is rubbish.

Other than that, i'd say his case is not very strong:

"we don’t know how astrology works physically"

He does in so many words admit astrology is not science.


Besides, astrology has been investigated:

James Randi debunks Astrology
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dp2Zqk8vHw
Give a dozen different people the same horoscope (telling them each it's specific to them) and everyone thinks the horoscope is correct.



At the risk of going off topic:

While libel laws in the UK and elswhere make it legally possible for commercial interests to suppress the truth, it's also legally possible for commercial interests to spread lies:

"FCC policy against falsification not a law, rule, or regulation"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Akre
(FOX News vs Wilson & Akre re Monsanto's rBGH growth hormone in milk)
www.foxbghsuit.com

grapes
2010-Apr-24, 01:44 PM
His thesis, if we can call it that is here (http://www.facebook.com/notes/equinox-astrology/why-it-is-no-longer-acceptable-to-say-astrology-is-rubbish-on-a-scientific-basis/389521253320) on Facebook.From that link:
Naturally Gauquelin’s tests attracted much controversy. He allowed independent sceptical researchers to scrutinize his original data. Two of the three committees of rationalist scientists set up to review his work replicated his results. The third US based (CSICOP) attempt was completed in 1981 but has yet to publish their results!
I'd be interested in hearing more about that, especially whether CSICOP completed an attempt in 1981, and haven't published their results.

But, note, replicating results by using his original data is expected. Scientific replication of results usually involves generation of an independent data set.

Sticks
2010-Apr-24, 03:04 PM
Just in case you do not want to go near Facebook, I have discovered the author has published his screed here (http://www.astrologer.com/tests/basisofastrology.htm) as well

EDG
2010-Apr-24, 03:19 PM
I was also dismayed when it was revealed that the BBC caved in and issued an apology (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/103056-The-BBC-Caves-in-to-astrologers) for what Brian said

It was said on the other thread, and I'll say it here again - it's only an "apology" because the author said it was.

To me, "the Professor's comments "were his own, not those of the BBC and were based on his belief that there isn't sufficient evidence to support astrology"." is nowhere near an apology, it's a statement of fact. Though if I was the BBC, I would have said "the Professor's comments "were his own, not those of the BBC and were based on the fact that there isn't sufficient evidence to support astrology".

So why do you still insist it's an apology?

John Jaksich
2010-Apr-24, 03:58 PM
In my very humble opinion --the trends have pointed to a certain few individuals always attempting to make "profit" on the misfortune of those who purportedly need some comfort from the fact that they can't control their actions or destiny. People need to be empowered or learn to empower themselves.

I suppose once the charlatan has been exposed----> e.g. Uri Gellar on the Late Show for instance. They tend to lose popularity.

The funny ( :sad: ) thing is that people always seem to be shackled for a need to believe in something---> the need to believe has been tied very loosely to our animal instincts. We definitely need to believe in the human capacity to make a better world.

kleindoofy
2010-Apr-24, 06:55 PM
... Brian Cox said it was a load of Rubbish. ...

The BBC's actions are possibly inspired by the fact that libel laws in the UK are very favorable to the plaintiff in that if the 'libel' is in fact true, that does not carry much weight.
...
Well then, did astrology sue? That's a docket text I'd like to see.

Since I'm not familiar with the case, I'll have to assume that he (Cox) said that somebody's astrological conclusions were rubbish, and not astrology in and of itself.

I personally think it's an insult to human intelligence (what little of it there is around) that one would have to prove that astrology is bunk.

It's like arguing with the people who think the Earth is flat. Let them die stupid. Who cares?

01101001
2010-Apr-24, 08:07 PM
I was also dismayed when it was revealed that the BBC caved in and issued an apology (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/103056-The-BBC-Caves-in-to-astrologers) for what Brian said

Now that you know it's not an apology, are you still dismayed?

DrRocket
2010-Apr-24, 08:14 PM
OK for the record, I do not subscribe to astrology in any way shape or form and cheered when Brian Cox said it was a load of Rubbish.

I was also dismayed when it was revealed that the BBC caved in and issued an apology (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/103056-The-BBC-Caves-in-to-astrologers) for what Brian said

That said, the individual who obtained the apology has written a screed entitled

Why it is no longer acceptable to say astrology is rubbish on a scientific basis.

His thesis, if we can call it that is here (http://www.facebook.com/notes/equinox-astrology/why-it-is-no-longer-acceptable-to-say-astrology-is-rubbish-on-a-scientific-basis/389521253320) on Facebook.

The question is, how do we answer his assertions, (Without getting personal)

BTW if anyone thinks this is in the wrong thread and should be in ATM, let us know. I do not advocate astrology at all, just to be clear. I am at one with Phil Plait on this one.

Currey's argument is typical of that of a glib person defending rubbish. He assiduously avoids defining what he means by "astrology" but is quite clear to exclude the examples known to most people through the newspapers. He does really say what astrology is other than "the study of the correlation between the positions and movements of celestial bodies and life and events on Earth", whichis suficiently broad and non-specific as to be meaningless.

Most of his time is spent in attacking attacks on astrology, and none is spent on defining astrology clearly and showing why it should be taken seriously. He seems to think that there is no burden on astrologers to show that they are doing something meaningful, but rather a burden on everyone else to establish the contrary position. That is just plain backwards if astrologers wish to be considered scientists.

So, not only is astrology rubbish, so is his argument.

Jeff Root
2010-Apr-24, 08:28 PM
It would be nice if the BBC put out an official statement that they
did not apologize for anything.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Paul Beardsley
2010-Apr-24, 08:34 PM
I've just been skimming the article. There are some incredible get-out clauses in there. For instance, "If an astrologer writes about the influcence [sic] of Mercury, it does not necessarily mean that the astrologer assumes a causal relationship."

So, I believe in giant squids. But by "giant squids" I do not necessarily mean large sea creatures with tentacles. I refuse to be limited by definitions!

01101001
2010-Apr-25, 01:24 AM
Twitter: ProfBrianCox


Anyone who wants to complain about my astrology comment last week on #wonders - bbc.co.uk/dev/null is the place :)

For the uninitiated: Wikipedia: /dev/null (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki//dev/null)

EDG
2010-Apr-25, 02:28 AM
nice :)

Cougar
2010-Apr-25, 02:30 AM
He assiduously avoids defining what he means by "astrology"...

Well, then, as you say, any claim becomes meaningless.

If only he had defined it as "tending toward the traditional characteristics" of "your sign." I heard somewhere there was actually an excess correlation there. Of course, this has nothing to do with the positions of any celestial bodies. At some young age kids discover, "Oh, I'm an Aquarius." What's that mean? Oh, the normal spiel - isn't Aquarius purportedly a sort of nonconformist/trendsetter? At any rate, I believe each sign has some fairly specific characteristics, and people, being HUMAN, tend to gravitate toward these 'suggestions', especially if they rather like them... and they're 8 years old. Hence a measurable excess correlation above random. Completely human induced. The planets? Ha ha ha.

astromark
2010-Apr-25, 05:38 AM
The point that I have said its rubbish and is based on no science what so ever. Its clear and obvious that a distant body of matter that might have been in the same part of the sky as the sun at the time of my birth could in any way change or shape my character or personality. This baseless nonsense has been well studied and no correlation of astrology can be said to be factual. I do not need to prove my case. I do not care enough to be bothered...
However when I here that political leaders employ astrologers to advise them a little tremble of fear is evident...

mugaliens
2010-Apr-25, 06:43 AM
Oxymoron: A combination of contradictory or incongruous words. Example: "Why it is no longer acceptable to say astrology is rubbish on a scientific basis."

Good for Brian Cox!

Bad on the BBC - a prime example of how political correctness can undermine the truth.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Apr-25, 11:18 AM
A direct answer to the title question:

Say to the astrologers, "Show us one unambiguous substantial prediction made by astrology that could not have been made in any other way. Until then, do not expect to be taken seriously by thinking people."

Disinfo Agent
2010-Apr-25, 02:06 PM
As Philip K. Dick wrote, reality is what's left once you stop believing in it.

What proponents of astrology need to answer is how astrology is falsifiable. What kinds of observations would prove astrology wrong, in their opinion? What would one need to do to refute astrology?

If their answer is that there is no conceivable way to prove astrology false because all discrepancies between prediction and practice can be explained away somehow, then astrology is "always right", and therefore it's worse than wrong: it's redundant. It doesn't teach us anything new about the world or ourselves.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-25, 02:54 PM
Perhaps it's worth pointing out that statistically significant findings of the sort Gauquelin reported just don't demand an explanation in the way many people seem to think. When the range of potential hypotheses is very large (all planets, all positions, all fields of human endeavour) and the a priori probability of the tested hypothesis being really true is very small (planet position at birth affects human life choices), then a statistically significant result simply moves the hypothesis from "grossly unlikely" to "slightly less grossly unlikely".

Grant Hutchison

Luckmeister
2010-Apr-25, 05:08 PM
To answer the OP question (sort of), I suggest to astrologers that they change their name to stop the confusion of people who don't know the difference between "astronomy" and "astrology" and are using one term when they mean the other. Since "ology" is a suffix pertaining to a scientific study and "ism" pertains to a belief system, I propose the new word "astrolism." Let's call a spade a spade. :razz:

Mike

astromark
2010-Apr-25, 08:07 PM
Never before have I witnessed such a unified opinion... Little is to be gained by attempting to convert the already converted...
So where do we go with this question ? , and no. I would not think a new more appropriate name would stick.
Astronomy was born from astrology. It was a group of astrologers that began the study of things astronomicle... Yes, I can except that.
Over long periods of time things change. The public view of predicted events from what star sign you were born under is apparently rubbish.
Can I hope to convince a believer in that of the error ? NO.
Given time and education the trend to except this and other Woo woo ideas will diminish.
Am I correct ( rarely ) That our society is filled with the uninformed. Those that will grasp ideas of ideology ( idi-oligy ) as fact are rampant. With out any science to support it. Its our job to thump the table and point out the foolishness. :o

Gillianren
2010-Apr-25, 10:08 PM
How about if the horoscopes are cast by one group, then a second group determines, with no knowledge of whose chart it is, what field the people should excel in? Has that been done? What about people who start out in one field, are good in it, and go on to be equally good in another? What does astrology say to those?

astromark
2010-Apr-26, 06:03 AM
Doing my best to be the voice of science, and not responding angrily as might be the easy option in regards to this :rolleyes: ...
After my last contribution were I saw a consensus... It seems, just like the coin toss... To have swung woefully close to a balance...

Try and see what many have said. 'You' are asking us to except that a small and weak force that is barely detectable against the background gravity of planet Earth, the moon and the sun... and the dietary habits of your mother the amount of oxygenated blood you are receiving and half a dozen other factors regarding the state of mind of your mother and all of the other contributing factors at the time of your birth... might in some very obscure way let the position of Mars shape what sort of person you are...

No. that is such an absurd idea its defyingly against the mainstream view.

Lets try this... Summers are getting hotter and winters colder because of daylight saving...:o Its true,. That extra hour taken out of the day stops the sun warming us... and in summer that extra hour heats up everything...ya thats got to be right.... NOT.
Absolute dribble and utter nonsense. So is astrology.

pzkpfw
2010-Apr-26, 08:20 AM
Astrology (defined by me here as "Planets (now or at some persons birth) have some effect on the character and actions of that person" is non-mainstream, and anyone wishing to support it need to go to the ATM forum to try to defend it - unless they've already had their 30 days at it.

The OP of this thread does leave it a bit open, however.

It's probably best to focus on the apology (or not) by the BBC - e.g. the reactions to or by astrologers.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-26, 09:47 AM
How about if the horoscopes are cast by one group, then a second group determines, with no knowledge of whose chart it is, what field the people should excel in? Has that been done? What about people who start out in one field, are good in it, and go on to be equally good in another? What does astrology say to those?
We ran a blinded test (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/19599-Scientific-Test-of-Astrology) somewhat similar to that on the old BA forum. Several groups of four people provided birth data from which birth horoscopes were made by a believing astrologer.
In each group, all members then received all four horoscopes and were asked to pick out the one describing them best.
It was blinded as none of the participants knew the identity of the other three in their group (signup and handling of personal data was done secretly) and the astrologer didn't know the identity of any of the participants.

The primary result was that the picks were statistically indistinguishable from everyone picking a random number.
The secondary result was that the by then former astrologer stopped believing.

Robert Tulip
2010-Apr-26, 02:00 PM
Astrology (defined by me here as "Planets (now or at some persons birth) have some effect on the character and actions of that person" is non-mainstream, and anyone wishing to support it need to go to the ATM forum to try to defend it - unless they've already had their 30 days at it.

The OP of this thread does leave it a bit open, however.

It's probably best to focus on the apology (or not) by the BBC - e.g. the reactions to or by astrologers.Thanks pzkpfw. Focusing on the debate, scientists consider it is obvious that astrology is rubbish, and see the campaign against astrology as part of the effort to enlighten the world about the true wonder of astronomy and the need to escape from primitive superstition.

Where this worthy goal comes unstuck, in my opinion, is that the essay by Robert Currey mentioned in the OP presents a reasoned argument that the scientific critique is overstated. It doesn't do to rebut his argument with generalised slanders about quackery or versions of what Richard Dawkins called the proof by incredulity, the argument that 'I can't imagine it so it is false'.

This thread usefully opened this discussion about scientific method with Grapes raising the question of the criticisms of the peer review process for the Mars Effect and Hornblower expressing interest in the statistical detail of Gauquelin's claims. It is possible to keep the discussion entirely within a mainstream scientific debate while looking into these questions as they relate to the comments made on and by the BBC.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-26, 02:21 PM
If I may go back to the point I made earlier, we can pretty easily discern that these "slanders about quackery" and "proof by incredulity" are just hyperbolic statements of a fundamental truth: there is at present no remotely reasonable explanation for how astrology might work. It is so far from having a reasonable explanation that people find it funny or annoying, and on occasion this leads them to express a scientific truth ("absolutely no plausible mechanism") in emotive unscientific terms ("complete ********").
So current knowledge puts the pre-test probability of astrology being true as very, very, very low indeed. Under these circumstance, marginally statistically significant findings of the sort Gauquelin advances make essentially no difference: the post-test probability is very, very low indeed.

How does one respond to such a positive test for a catastrophically implausible hypothesis? One suspects the data.

Currey is just using debating tactics, and the statistical naivete of most people, in order to dance past the scientific underpinnings of throwaway remarks like Cox's.

Grant Hutchison

Gillianren
2010-Apr-26, 04:53 PM
We ran a blinded test (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/19599-Scientific-Test-of-Astrology) somewhat similar to that on the old BA forum.

Yeah, I was part of that. I wanted a "none of the above" option, as did several others.

Disinfo Agent
2010-Apr-26, 05:02 PM
Gauquelin's study should be looked into (and it apparently has been already (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/50974-Science-and-Astrology?)), but if that's all that the author of the article can present in support of astrology, then it's nearly as good as nothing. A standalone study will hardly convince anyone. If astrology is true, there should be many, many other independent studies supporting it by now. Where are they? The author's whole defence of astrology rests on a single obscure study.

The author is also far too glib in dismissing the many studies which have provided evidence against astrology (of which the test performed here in the BAUT forums, which Henrik mentioned, is but one example), such as the ones listed here (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/51269-Astrology-studies?) and here (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/56480-Astrology-doesn-t-work-shown-scientifically?).

Robert Tulip
2010-Apr-28, 05:44 AM
Gauquelin's study should be looked into (and it apparently has been already (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/50974-Science-and-Astrology?)), but if that's all that the author of the article can present in support of astrology, then it's nearly as good as nothing. A standalone study will hardly convince anyone. If astrology is true, there should be many, many other independent studies supporting it by now. Where are they? The author's whole defence of astrology rests on a single obscure study.
If planetary effects exist at all, the failure of efforts to find them shows they are extremely weak at best. Scientific discussion of the Gauquelin study concerns the legitimacy of the statistical methods he used to devise tests of sufficient sensitivity to detect such a weak signal.

Disinfo Agent
2010-Apr-28, 08:35 PM
If the effect of the planets is so weak, why should we pay any attention to it? Why should we waste our time with a 'signal' that is effectively white noise, or barely distinguishable from white noise at best?

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-28, 09:20 PM
If it could be shown to actually be white noise it would be somewhat interesting, as the higher frequencies would have to come from some pretty strange places.

Robert Tulip
2010-Apr-28, 10:36 PM
If the effect of the planets is so weak, why should we pay any attention to it? Why should we waste our time with a 'signal' that is effectively white noise, or barely distinguishable from white noise at best?
When Gauquelin analysed the birth times of athletes of moderate ability, he found no difference in planetary positions from the general public average. However, as Gauquelin refined his sample, looking at progressively more eminent groups of athletes, as defined by objective criteria such as newspaper citations and national representation, he found significant difference from average. Decisively, as Ertel points out, Gauquelin found that the significance increases as a function of eminence, as a robust empirical correlation. This is an admittedly thin thread, but if it holds strong then it demands explanation.

If it could be shown to actually be white noise it would be somewhat interesting, as the higher frequencies would have to come from some pretty strange places.Plotting planetary cycles on to a frequency map sounds rather Pythagorean!

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-28, 10:50 PM
Decisively, as Ertel points out, Gauquelin found that the significance increases as a function of eminence, as a robust empirical correlation. This is an admittedly thin thread, but if it holds strong then it demands explanation.
Random correlations increase as sample size decreases? Or to turn it around, as sample size increases, random effects are smoothed out.

Sound like simple expected statistical behavior to me, especially if you add confirmation bias.

Jim
2010-Apr-28, 11:24 PM
Random correlations increase as sample size decreases? Or to turn it around, as sample size increases, random effects are smoothed out.

Sound like simple expected statistical behavior to me, especially if you add confirmation bias.

That's the most plausible explanation. Did Gauquelin attempt any predictions? That is, did he take a large group of young, unproven athletes and try to forecast which ones would become eminent? (Remember, theories predict as well as explain.)

Robert Tulip
2010-Apr-29, 04:35 AM
Random correlations increase as sample size decreases? Or to turn it around, as sample size increases, random effects are smoothed out. Sound like simple expected statistical behavior to me, especially if you add confirmation bias.
Henrik, you may not have read Gauquelin’s paper. It is not a ‘random correlation’ that increases as sample size decreases, but a specific correlation between eminence of sport stars and the likelihood they were born when Mars was on the eastern horizon. This finding was so counter-intuitive that the Belgian Comite Para conducted a scientific test, and validated it with new data. Anyone could do this again. Confirmation bias can be removed through correct design protocol.


That's the most plausible explanation. Did Gauquelin attempt any predictions? That is, did he take a large group of young, unproven athletes and try to forecast which ones would become eminent? (Remember, theories predict as well as explain.)A replication of Gauquelin’s test among other groups would show how strong the effect is more generally. This would test the prediction that having Mars on the eastern horizon at birth increases likelihood of sporting success. Considering all the terrestrial factors in the phenotype of a successful athlete, such a planetary alignment can only make a minute difference, if any.

Gillianren
2010-Apr-29, 04:53 AM
Henrik, you may not have read Gauquelin’s paper. It is not a ‘random correlation’ that increases as sample size decreases, but a specific correlation between eminence of sport stars and the likelihood they were born when Mars was on the eastern horizon. This finding was so counter-intuitive that the Belgian Comite Para conducted a scientific test, and validated it with new data. Anyone could do this again. Confirmation bias can be removed through correct design protocol.

Did they know going in why those horoscopes were selected? Were they among randomized horoscopes of not-athletes?

Robert Tulip
2010-Apr-29, 06:42 AM
Did they know going in why those horoscopes were selected? Were they among randomized horoscopes of not-athletes?Yes, and Yes. The selection was to measure if data for eminent athletes differed consistently from the overall population average. On the diagram (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/103448-Astrology?p=1722602#post1722602) posted by Hungry4info, the general population results are shown as the circle.

Gillianren
2010-Apr-29, 07:25 AM
In other words, there are a pair of spikes which may or may not be statistical anomalies and a place where the selected horoscopes pretty much exactly followed the curve of the general population. Well. I certainly am convinced.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-29, 09:00 AM
This is an admittedly thin thread, but if it holds strong then it demands explanation.It demands nothing apart from a flicker of mild interest, for reasons I've described. There are too many potential correlations to choose from, and too small a pre-test probability.
There's a standard ** detector used in my line of work, whenever epidemiology throws up a weak correlation between some environmental factor and some disease (something which happens all the time, given the number of different environmental factors and the number of different diseases): "Does the proposed mechanism of causation make sense?"
If not, move on.

Grant Hutchison

Grey
2010-Apr-29, 02:33 PM
Yeah, I was part of that. I wanted a "none of the above" option, as did several others.Yes, but that would have made the test much less quantifiable. Deciding whether or not a given description matches you well is a pretty subjective judgment. But picking the best choice out of four is strictly quantifiable. Either you picked the right one, or you didn't, and it's easy to determine the odds that you would have selected the right one by random chance, so there's a baseline to compare with. Any time you want to test something like this, that's the best way to go. Amusingly, the number of people selecting the right description was actually smaller than you'd expect from random chance.

Gillianren
2010-Apr-29, 05:21 PM
Yes, but that would have made the test much less quantifiable.

Oh, I know. It's just that it's worth noting, after the fact, that few of us thought any of the options were very close. What's more, even if my horoscope had correctly predicted, say, the fact that I'm a writer, it got so much else wrong that the one "hit" was pure chance.

Jim
2010-Apr-29, 08:02 PM
... This would test the prediction that having Mars on the eastern horizon at birth increases likelihood of sporting success. Considering all the terrestrial factors in the phenotype of a successful athlete, such a planetary alignment can only make a minute difference, if any.
(Emphasis added)

So, no prediction, just coincidence.

01101001
2010-Apr-29, 08:26 PM
(Emphasis added)

So, no prediction, just coincidence.

A correlation -- if you define sporting success carefully, exactly right, so the correlation is evident.

1. Shoot arrow
2. Paint target
3. Bullseye!

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-30, 05:12 AM
Yes, and Yes. The selection was to measure if data for eminent athletes differed consistently from the overall population average. On the diagram (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/103448-Astrology?p=1722602#post1722602) posted by Hungry4info, the general population results are shown as the circle.
What's the sample size for that diagram?

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-30, 05:34 AM
I'm going to try to repeat Gauquelin's survey and will now defined the parameters before starting, so the chance of bias will be as small as possible.

I will define top athlete as someone sponsored by Team Denmark (http://www.teamdanmark.dk/CMS/cmsdoc.nsf/content/dhy5lucye) who, in the years 1998-2009, won a medal in either a European or World championship or in the Olympic games1.

I will define 3 tiers of excellence based on the type of competition the medal was won in and see if they have differences in correlation.

I will assume that ability to find publicly available birth data, precise enough to make a horoscope, is randomized over the sample and won't bias the study. Google will be used for data collection.

Since this is intended to look at Gauquelin, I will look specifically at the RA of Mars at the time of birth, rather than look for any other apparent correlations in the sample set.2

I go in to this knowing that the sample is so small that some correlation is likely to show up, but not expecting it to be the same as the one Gauquelin found.

Before I start working, can anyone think of something I forgot to specify in advance which might invalidate the test?


1) because that list is readily available and is unlikely to be filtered for astrological influences.
2) I'm not looking for any correlation3. I'm specifically testing Gauquelin's claimed correlation.
3) Once I have the data, I might for fun see if I can find any random correlation that'll get me a minute on TV to tell how I found it.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-30, 10:27 AM
To check Gauquelin, you'll need to look at the hour angle of Mars at the place of birth: local sidereal time minus the RA.

Grant Hutchison

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-30, 11:04 AM
To check Gauquelin, you'll need to look at the hour angle of Mars at the place of birth: local sidereal time minus the RA.
:doh: Good catch, thanks.
I suspect that's what I'll get anyway if I just plot the data into a standard horoscope program.

Robert Tulip
2010-Apr-30, 11:15 AM
I'm going to try to repeat Gauquelin's survey and will now defined the parameters before starting, so the chance of bias will be as small as possible. I will define top athlete as someone sponsored by {URL="http://www.teamdanmark.dk/CMS/cmsdoc.nsf/content/dhy5lucye"]Team Denmark[/URL] who, in the years 1998-2009, won a medal in either a European or World championship or in the Olympic games1. I will define 3 tiers of excellence based on the type of competition the medal was won in and see if they have differences in correlation. I will assume that ability to find publicly available birth data, precise enough to make a horoscope, is randomized over the sample and won't bias the study. Google will be used for data collection. Since this is intended to look at Gauquelin, I will look specifically at the RA of Mars at the time of birth, rather than look for any other apparent correlations in the sample set.2 I go in to this knowing that the sample is so small that some correlation is likely to show up, but not expecting it to be the same as the one Gauquelin found. Before I start working, can anyone think of something I forgot to specify in advance which might invalidate the test? 1) because that list is readily available and is unlikely to be filtered for astrological influences. 2) I'm not looking for any correlation3. I'm specifically testing Gauquelin's claimed correlation. 3) Once I have the data, I might for fun see if I can find any random correlation that'll get me a minute on TV to tell how I found it.Thanks Henrik. There is one small issue, that Gauquelin only found the statistical correlation he describes among natural births. Sport stars born with medical interference in the birth through induction or caesarian section showed the same random Mars position as the general population (this is in line with the hypothesis that the foetus in some way chose the time of its birth). Part of the problem of replicating Gauqelin's study is that it can be hard to verify birth times, except in national systems where this information is well recorded, and that data on medical interference may be difficult to obtain. I would hope birth registries and other authorities would cooperate with providing data for a scientific study as long as privacy protocols are clear. I can assist with data crunching.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-30, 11:19 AM
... standard horoscope program.Every now and then I run into a phrase which induces a brief cognitive dissonance follwed by a widening of mental horizons. Last time it was "a gun of sentimental value". You just achieved the same effect with "standard horoscope program". :lol:

Grant Hutchison

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-30, 11:28 AM
Sport stars born with medical interference in the birth through induction or caesarian section showed the same random Mars position as the general population.How about "intervention" rather than "interference"? Just so as to avoid directly insulting a large group of generally pretty caring and responsible individuals? :)

This particular bit of fine-tuning by Gauquelin of course introduces a whole new layer of data-adjustment, since such data are subject to very broad interpretation, there being a wide range of options for medical "interference", which can very easily be subject to "interpretation creep".

Grant Hutchison

Robert Tulip
2010-Apr-30, 11:30 AM
What's the sample size for that diagram?

Gauquelin's paper Is there Really a Mars Effect? (http://www.cyclesresearchinstitute.org/gauquelin/mars_effect.html) states:
- the initial sample was 570 French sports champions
- the Belgian Comité Para decided to gather a fresh group of 535 sports champions from which they obtained quite similar results
- Professor Ertel conducted analysis on 4391 champions in Gauquelin's database.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-30, 11:32 AM
Thanks Henrik. There is one small issue, that Gauquelin only found the statistical correlation he describes among natural births. Sport stars born with medical interference in the birth through induction or caesarian section showed the same random Mars position as the general population (this is in line with the hypothesis that the foetus in some way chose the time of its birth). Part of the problem of replicating Gauqelin's study is that it can be hard to verify birth times, except in national systems where this information is well recorded, and that data on medical interference may be difficult to obtain. I would hope birth registries and other authorities would cooperate with providing data for a scientific study as long as privacy protocols are clear. I can assist with data crunching.
Actually that's not a small issue as it makes it impossible for me to try the test, as I only have access to public records and access to medical records is very limited. Thanks for mentioning it before I wasted my time.
Data crunching would have been minimal as it would only have required typing the data into a program and plotting the distribution of the output to see if a peak existed for Mars to the east.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-30, 03:22 PM
Gauquelin's paper Is there Really a Mars Effect? (http://www.cyclesresearchinstitute.org/gauquelin/mars_effect.html) ...Perhaps it would be useful for people to see an alternative view (http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_11_1_kurtz.pdf) (300KB pdf) of Gauquelin's data processing.
There were a lot of issues relating to blinding, data-trawling and subgroup analysis, all of which are relevant to whether Gauquelin's results should ever have made any demands on anyone's attention. Unfortunately, since Gauquelin's will required that his files be destroyed after his death, we will never be able to do a properly blinded analysis of the full dataset.

Grant Hutchison

Gillianren
2010-Apr-30, 05:04 PM
You know, the doctor was really the one who chose when I would be born, it's true--he offered my mother the chance to give my sisters the same birthday, to which she reacted with proper horror--it's not as though he chose at random. I was, presumably, as fully developed at birth as my daughter, who "chose" her own time. In fact, in most cases of "interference," of all the silly terms for it, it's intervention during labour. Had I been in labour myself about four hours longer, my daughter would have been c-section as well. Would this have changed the exact moment she was born from what it would have been without medical intervention? Yes. Does that, medically, matter? Only in that it could have, in theory, saved our lives.

swampyankee
2010-Apr-30, 05:40 PM
In response to the thread topic, how about ridicule and scorn?

Jim
2010-Apr-30, 06:24 PM
Thanks Henrik. There is one small issue, that Gauquelin only found the statistical correlation he describes among natural births. Sport stars born with medical interference in the birth ...

So the "correlation" only holds for natural births? That means the planetary alignments have no affect on "assisted" births? How do the planets know the difference? Or is the affect somehow based on when the birth should have occurred?

Yeah. Riiiiight.

Hey, maybe it's genetic! Or how they were raised! Naah, that's just too silly to believe.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-30, 06:50 PM
Indeed. We now seem to have a second grotesquely implausible hypothesis, stacked on the first. While the foetus might be able to "choose" the time of the onset of labour, it would need a rather detailed flow diagram of its mother's physiology, psychology and anatomy in order to coordinate delivery with one of of Gauquelin's "windows". But if it can do that, then it has already received the astrological signal, hours before birth. Why does it (or the planets) still care about the time of delivery?
A more plausible hypothesis is that this is just another layer of wiggle room in Gauquelin's data analysis.

Grant Hutchison

HenrikOlsen
2010-Apr-30, 07:45 PM
After reading the link Grant provided, the main argument against Gauquelin's analysis looks to be that the correlation is only present in datasets Gauquelin had selected manually after knowing the position of Mars. As he additionally demanded the raw data be destroyed, I conclude he knew the data wouldn't corroborate his claim if examined without bias.

I find that to be reason enough to dismiss his claims outright and once again stuff astrology back in the "no evidence for, lots against" drawer.

grant hutchison
2010-Apr-30, 08:42 PM
It's posiible that Gauquelin's motive for the destruction of the files was simply one of pique, as Ertel suggests. It's certainly possible for unblinded researchers with a strong emotional attachment to a particular outcome to select data unconsciously, even in such complicated ways as Gauquelin seems to have done. He certainly gave the appearance of being unaware of the pitfalls of unblinded data analysis.

Grant Hutchison

Robert Tulip
2010-May-01, 08:45 AM
Perhaps it would be useful for people to see an alternative view (http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_11_1_kurtz.pdf) (300KB pdf) of Gauquelin's data processing.
There were a lot of issues relating to blinding, data-trawling and subgroup analysis, all of which are relevant to whether Gauquelin's results should ever have made any demands on anyone's attention. Unfortunately, since Gauquelin's will required that his files be destroyed after his death, we will never be able to do a properly blinded analysis of the full dataset.

Grant HutchisonThank you for this paper Grant. Gauquelin's work is cited by the astrologer critic of the BBC and Cox as his best example. Kurtz, Nienhuys and Sandhu provide good reason to suspect that Gauquelin fudged his data to conform with his hypothesis. Either we have Gauquelin the quixotic fantasist twisting data to fit his claim, or this Mars Effect is so weak as to be practically irrelevant. It remains a (barely) open question whether the eminence argument from Ertel points to a real effect or just an artifact of Gauquelin's selection method.

An astrology book I've just looked up says that being born when Mars is in the Twelfth House (the Gauquelin Zone) causes a tendency to act in secret or to work in large institutions, but says nothing about sporting prowess. If Gauquelin could not prove conclusively that any of the large groups of professionals he studied differed in consistent ways from average regarding planets in the houses, you would have to say such detailed claims about planetary alignments are primarily imaginary. But is the basis zero or just vanishingly small?

The human genome is conditioned by the extended phenotype of our evolutionary history. Terrestrial factors may provide 99.9% of the causal processes operating on human genetics, but the question still remains whether that 0.1% or smaller 'other' within our phenotype include some causal role for the regular cycles of the sun and planets. If so, the signal would routinely be swamped by terrestrial factors, but should still have a statistically detectable effect. To date astrology has not found such a clearly replicable effect.

Paul Beardsley
2010-May-01, 09:14 AM
But is the basis zero or just vanishingly small?

Surely the distinction is meaningless when one is dealing with statistics?

And to somewhat rephrase a question I posed before, why would Mars being just above the eastern horizon have a different influence on a newborn than Mars being just above the western horizon?


Terrestrial factors may provide 99.9% of the causal processes operating on human genetics, but the question still remains whether that 0.1% or smaller 'other' within our phenotype include some causal role for the regular cycles of the sun and planets.

Where do these figures come from, Robert?

grant hutchison
2010-May-01, 12:27 PM
Terrestrial factors may provide 99.9% of the causal processes operating on human genetics, but the question still remains whether that 0.1% or smaller 'other' within our phenotype include some causal role for the regular cycles of the sun and planets.No, that question doesn't "remain". In the absence of observable evidence and any remotely plausible mechanism of causation, that question simply vanishes from useful, sensible discussion. Which is Cox's point.

Grant Hutchison

Robert Tulip
2010-May-01, 12:30 PM
Surely the distinction is meaningless when one is dealing with statistics?Not at all. Consider the perihelion of Mercury (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_general_relativity#Perihelion_precession_ of_Mercury). Oblateness of the sun contributes about 0.00045% of the precession. Even though this number is tiny, it has dynamic basis. For astrology, the absence of a dynamic basis suggests the planets should have zero effect on human psychology. To avoid the 'rubbish' tag, astrology has to find a non-zero robust correlation, however small.
why would Mars being just above the eastern horizon have a different influence on a newborn than Mars being just above the western horizon?I suspect that question may be outside the limits of this thread. Astrologers might say that the planet does not have 'influence on a newborn' but rather that both events express a common quality of the moment. This gets into Carl Jung's mystical idea of synchronicity, and I suspect the moderators may frown on such discussion. If the effect is too small to reliably detect, it is hard to see that speculation about its shape can make any scientific progress.
Where do these figures come from, Robert?They are just illustrative for 'almost all' and 'almost none'.

R.A.F.
2010-May-01, 01:58 PM
If planetary effects exist at all...

What do you mean if??...of course there is a planetary effect, and it is called gravity. Any other "effects" are unfounded supposition.


Scientific discussion of the Gauquelin study concerns the legitimacy of the statistical methods he used to devise tests of sufficient sensitivity to detect such a weak signal.

Scientific discussion of such supposedly weak effects are irrelevant. In other words, if the effect is so weak, then it would not effect us at all.

grant hutchison
2010-May-01, 02:30 PM
If the effect is too small to reliably detect, it is hard to see that speculation about its shape can make any scientific progress.Quite the reverse. Formulate a hypothesis that makes testable predictions. Test for those specific effects, under conditions which control for other, confounding variables. The trawling of vast datasets for any and all correlations is simply doing the science in the wrong direction: it will never convince, for reasons I've already given.

Grant Hutchison

Delvo
2010-May-01, 02:33 PM
To avoid the 'rubbish' tag, astrology has to find a non-zero robust correlation, however small.No, astrological claims are much bigger than that, so anything really small would still disprove the claims.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-01, 03:23 PM
Not at all. Consider the perihelion of Mercury (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_general_relativity#Perihelion_precession_ of_Mercury). Oblateness of the sun contributes about 0.00045% of the precession. Even though this number is tiny, it has dynamic basis
What you're missing is that that effect isn't shown by some statistic correlation, but rather because time can be measured extremely precisely.
And it's a measurement anyone with a precise enough watch can repeat.

Paul Beardsley
2010-May-01, 03:42 PM
Not at all. Consider the perihelion of Mercury (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_general_relativity#Perihelion_precession_ of_Mercury). Oblateness of the sun contributes about 0.00045% of the precession. Even though this number is tiny, it has dynamic basis.

I repeat my question with due emphasis: surely the distinction (between zero and vanishingly small) is meaningless where statistics are concerned?

For instance, if I toss a coin 100 times and it comes up heads 51 times, the 1 difference from the "expected" 50 heads is vanishingly small because it is well within probability. In other words, 51 heads should be no more surprising than 50 heads, whereas 99 heads would be very surprising.

And to repeat my question which I will not let lie, "Why would Mars being just above the eastern horizon have a different influence on a newborn than Mars being just above the western horizon?"


I suspect that question may be outside the limits of this thread.
Huh?

Even allowing for the fact that you presumably mean an attempt to answer it rather than the question itself, I repeat, Huh?

This question goes to the heart of the issue for anyone who maintains there is anything resembling a scientific basis for astrology, given that a lot of them have said, "Yeah yeah, we know all about precession of the equinoxes, and we know that constellations are unrelated line-of-sight arrangements of distant stars, but even so..."


Astrologers might say that the planet does not have 'influence on a newborn' but rather that both events express a common quality of the moment.
Astrologers might indeed say this, but it clearly has nothing to do with science.


This gets into Carl Jung's mystical idea of synchronicity, and I suspect the moderators may frown on such discussion. If the effect is too small to reliably detect, it is hard to see that speculation about its shape can make any scientific progress.
If it's too small to reliably detect, how come Jung knows about it?

If it provides a mechanism for astrology as a working system, I'm sure the mods would be delighted to see it discussed, providing it's backed up by evidence.


They are just illustrative for 'almost all' and 'almost none'.
Yes, I had a feeling that was what you were doing. I see it used to support the idea that aliens are visiting us: "Granted, 99.99% of UFOs can be explained as aircraft, satellites, balloons and hoaxes, but what of the other 0.01%?"

Consider the possibility that "all" and "none" might be more appropriate than "almost all" and "almost none".


What do you mean if??...of course there is a planetary effect, and it is called gravity.
To be fair, R.A.F., I think Robert is using the phrase as shorthand for an effect other than the ones science recognises.

Besides, there is a planetary effect other than gravity which definitely has a profound effect on the lives of certain human beings, myself included.

It's called light.

R.A.F.
2010-May-01, 04:13 PM
To be fair, R.A.F., I think Robert is using the phrase as shorthand for an effect other than the ones science recognises.

What would be the purpose of discussing an imaginary effect?


...there is a planetary effect other than gravity which definitely has a profound effect on the lives of certain human beings, myself included.

It's called light.

Do you mean reflected light?

Paul Beardsley
2010-May-01, 04:24 PM
What would be the purpose of discussing an imaginary effect?

None. But there would be purpose in discussing whether a non-imaginary effect other than those recognised by science existed. Of course, evidence for this effect would have to be provided.


Do you mean reflected light?

Reflected light is indeed the subcategory of light that I was talking about.

Perhaps I should have said reflected visible light...

Gillianren
2010-May-01, 07:04 PM
Either we have Gauquelin the quixotic fantasist twisting data to fit his claim, or this Mars Effect is so weak as to be practically irrelevant.

Neither case strikes me as being much of a defense of astrology.

Robert Tulip
2010-May-02, 04:50 AM
I repeat my question with due emphasis: surely the distinction (between zero and vanishingly small) is meaningless where statistics are concerned? For instance, if I toss a coin 100 times and it comes up heads 51 times, the 1 difference from the "expected" 50 heads is vanishingly small because it is well within probability. In other words, 51 heads should be no more surprising than 50 heads, whereas 99 heads would be very surprising.
A better comparison might be a coin that is weighted so every 10,000 tosses it produces on average 5001 heads, so ten billion tosses produce 5001 million heads, an excess of one million. Here we have a statistical factor that is vanishingly small, and very hard to detect, but real. The problem with astrology is that it makes claims analogous to 99/100 heads, or maybe 60/100, when sensitive data analysis has found nothing more than questionable correlations closer to the 50.01 mark. Such a trend is vanishingly small, but evidence to date has not proved it is impossible.

If it's too small to reliably detect, how come Jung knows about it?It gets back to the problem of reliance on psychic intuition rather than observation as the basis of astrology. Consider an analogy with a salmon river. All the water in the river is marked by a defined chemical scent that by human standards has homeopathic dilution but by salmon standards is enough to guide them home from the deep ocean. We see the salmon ability as an instinctive mystery but know it must have a mechanistic explanation in the evolution of the salmon's DNA.

By analogy, Jung claims that everything that happens at any given moment in a chaotic system is united by a common quality that is specific to that moment, somewhat like all the water in a river being marked by the unique properties of that river, and that humans can detect this quality by psychic intuition. It is a way of imagining the solar system as a dynamic whole, with human psychology as a sensitive indicator of the overall cyclic shape of the whole as it affects the earth. The problem is that this intuitive story of a synchronous structure of time is not backed by systematic observation.

Van Rijn
2010-May-02, 06:49 AM
Such a trend is vanishingly small, but evidence to date has not proved it is impossible.


Evidence to date has not proven an invisible elf in my yard to be impossible.

You have the burden of proof turned around.

harkeppler
2010-May-02, 09:25 AM
To the Gauquelin story should be added, that Gauquelin´s data were sorted to give the effect. Other data were sorted out. That is not science, that

is nonsense and manipulation. Much of this tricked nonsense was published in the rare german magazine "Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und

Grenzgebiete der Psychologie" since 1959, especially by "psychologists" which was affected by astrology or working as astrologer like Dr. Suitbert

Ertl! The whole "Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene e.V." which was one main protagonist for that nonsense is not a real

scientific institute but more a gathering of people hearing voices, seeing ghosts and having funny "explanations" for nearly every "PSI effect". The

founder, Hans Bender, was a title swindler who stuffed himself with a medical doctoral degree he had never gotten! That ist a fact.

It is typical, that "astrology" ist normally "proofed" with some statistical material mostly "to complex" to looked through and "to difficult" to get

the original data. Several "specialists" as Gunther Sachs (a wellknown playboy) had written stupid books about "statistical evidences", also the

"Allensbach Meinungsforschung" which is an insitute to manipulate elections in Germany. Also "astrologers", like Elizabeth Teissier (as: Germaine

Elizabeth Hanselmann), who tried to get and achieved a doctor titel 2001 in Paris or Dr. Peter Niehenke (who was promoted after making a useless

"statstic" which resulted contrary to his astrological ideas at the University Freiburg and working as "scientific astrologer" for decades - before

running naked through Freiburg starting a scandal - were talking funny and untrue things about the Gauquelin effect in public.

The main reason that astrologers are relatively free to cash and justice is poor in Germany is that they sat in concentration camps in WW II. So

Germany becomes now a "astrological center".

At least, Gauquelin and his effect are not a real pro argument for astrology, because the allegedly found "systematical pattern" between the position

of Mars in the sky and the birth of persons taking several kinds of professions is not following the astrological common scheme. It is more

contradictory.


If statistical means are used, it should be understood that:

- There are 360 positions the sun can take in an typical horoscope with orbis 1 degree, the same is for Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptun and

usually Pluto - and the Moon. Mercury and Venus can be found 28 and 48 degrees of both sides of the sun (inferior planets). That means, there should

be: 360*(2*28)*(2*48)*360*360*360*360*360*360*360 = 56*96*360^8 = 1,516,628,686,248,350,000,000,000 "standard horoscopes", To have a "statistical base", there should be

around 10 candidates for each horoscopic pattern at least. This is impossible.

- A lot of astrological constellations repeat only in very long periods, so Uranus-Neptun-Pluto constellations - the periods are longer than the existence of historical mankind.

- Other patterns repeat every month (like moon positions) but without any reliable effect.

- There are several idiotic techniques like "secondary" and "tertiary directions" which feet on funny, but factless constructed horoscopes setting months or days for years and so on.

- Most astrological statements are Barnum-blabla which fit to everyone.

- If astrology is handled as a science, the tight proof should come from people taking astrology for serious. It cannot be favoured that anyone have to give a "proof of the opposite". That is

not common scientific practice.

- Every astrological statement is "true", regardless if there are only major planets, asteroids, some stars or not existing object like lilith or

"Hamburger planets" (Cupido, Zeus, Apollon etc.) are used. Dr. Peter Nihenke published a paper in 1988 that he was riddled by the fact, that also

those horoscopes give "true" informations when data of birth and persons was swapped occasionally by bad luck! How funny!

Astrology is a good example that stupidity cannot be extincted.

Paul Beardsley
2010-May-02, 09:43 AM
Interesting post, harkeppler. One query:


If statistical means are used, it should be understood that:

- There are 360 positions the sun can take in an typical horoscope with orbis 1 degree, the same is for Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptun and


Why 360? Why not multiples of degrees, or a division nothing to do with degrees?

I didn't get some of the references you made, but I agree with the gist.

harkeppler
2010-May-02, 10:14 AM
Oh, in astrology is an "orbis" (like: pace) common. Positions of objects may be given at least to arc seconds, but the "exchange" or "interaction" of objects in special constellations ("aspects" like trigon, quadrature, opposition, conjunction) are only looked with that precision. So, calculation can be reduced to one-degree-accuracy, because only these constellations are astrological used. Several astrologers take 0.5 to 5 degree orbis - there is no common sense on, but 1.0 is "useful".

In medieval times, position was noted not only with degree, arc minute and arc seconds but additional with 1/60 of them (arc tertias). This was useless, but common. Like most astrological techniques, the use of degrees is not explained, it is "common".

The effect is, that there are vastly more possible horoscopes than people ever had lived. Furthermore, a large number of horoscope sets are not very frequent (constellations with saturn, uranus, neptun and pluto for example).

So, the question occurs: how can astrologers have information on that horoscopes and aspects and their effects if most of them does not have occured? Astrologers frequently tell, that there are working with "examples" and "experience". I do not see that.

Disinfo Agent
2010-May-03, 02:02 PM
Not at all. Consider the perihelion of Mercury (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_general_relativity#Perihelion_precession_ of_Mercury). Oblateness of the sun contributes about 0.00045% of the precession. Even though this number is tiny, it has dynamic basis.

What you're missing is that that effect isn't shown by some statistic correlation, but rather because time can be measured extremely precisely.
And it's a measurement anyone with a precise enough watch can repeat.My understanding is that the discrepancies in the perihelion of Mercury were indeed vanishingly small as far as the precision of the instruments available in the late 19th/ early 20th century could tell. Although it turned out to be one bit of evidence in favour of Einstein's theory of relativity (which predicted the precession better than Newtonian physics), the difference was still very small. Had there been only this discrepancy between the two, it's doubtful that Einstein's theory would have superseded Newton's theory.

But the precession of Mercury was not the only weight in the scales that tipped towards relativity. Various kinds of evidence contributed to the shift to relativity. Although the measurable differences between reality and Newtonian predictions were in many cases quite small and practically insignificant, it was the accumulation of various independent lines of argumentation favoring relativity over it that was the undoing of Newtonian physics (to the extent that it has been superseded; it's still a very useful approximation to reality in many circumstances).

And this is what I see as one of the most serious failings in the original article. Even if Gauquelin had found legitimate evidence in favour of astrology, that would be just one study, one set of evidence. If astrology is true, there should be many more!

R.A.F.
2010-May-03, 03:39 PM
It is a way of imagining the solar system as a dynamic whole, with human psychology as a sensitive indicator of the overall cyclic shape of the whole as it affects the earth.

Do you really believe any of this "gobbledeegook"? Your sentence has no meaning, yet you post it as if it "explains" everything.

grant hutchison
2010-May-03, 04:54 PM
Do you really believe any of this "gobbledeegook"? Your sentence has no meaning, yet you post it as if it "explains" everything.Robert Tulip's sentence has meaning: he's just describing Jungian synchronicity, with a bit of old-fashioned holism stirred into the mix. The problem is not so much an absence of meaning, but an absence of evidence for that meaning.
There's no doubt that Jung's synchronicity occurs, to the extent that we have a strong tendency to see causally unrelated events and imbue them with personal meaning. But there's no evidence that this takes place anywhere outside our own individual heads. Jung would have them originating in some "collective unconscious"; most psychologists would say that we're evolved to see patterns, and sometimes we see patterns where none exists.

There's great relevance to this thread, for Gauquelin simply lacked the insight or discipline to guard against this spurious pattern-recognition by using blinded analysis. Because of the unblinded way he handled his data, there was simply no way he could distinguish between events inside and outside of his head.

Grant Hutchison

R.A.F.
2010-May-03, 11:12 PM
Robert Tulip's sentence has meaning: he's just describing Jungian synchronicity, with a bit of old-fashioned holism stirred into the mix. The problem is not so much an absence of meaning, but an absence of evidence for that meaning.

Please forgive... not only am I not familiar with, I just don't think Jung or "meaning" have anything to do with actual FACTS.

I am simply not convinced with the "musings" of philosophers from ages ago...

Call it a "failing" of mine...:)

grant hutchison
2010-May-03, 11:21 PM
Please forgive... not only am I not familiar with, I just don't think Jung or "meaning" have anything to do with actual FACTS.

I am simply not convinced with the "musings" of philosophers from ages ago...

Call it a "failing" of mine...:)It's a common enough failing at BAUT. :)

But there's a neat connection between Jung's synchronicity and Gauquelin's error, as I pointed out. That might be informative and interesting for Robert Tulip, even if not for yourself.

Grant Hutchison

Robert Tulip
2010-May-04, 03:42 AM
The problem with astrology is that it makes claims analogous to 99/100 heads, or maybe 60/100, when sensitive data analysis has found nothing more than questionable correlations closer to the 50.01 mark. Such a trend is vanishingly small, but evidence to date has not proved it is impossible.

Evidence to date has not proven an invisible elf in my yard to be impossible. You have the burden of proof turned around.
A reason for the persistence of popular astrological belief, and the low level of belief in elves, is that astrology fits into other beliefs that are deductively plausible and seem to be helpful, whereas belief in elves does not. The holistic view of causality holds that everything that occurs in a finite system is the effect of a causal ‘tree’ that has a common root. For example, most everything in the solar system is causally united by having been part of the solar system from the start, so human life is causally united to planetary cycles by this common origin. This produces the old hermetic logical axiom ‘as above so below.’ Scientific observation suggests this axiom is useless except for measurable links such as gravity. Unlike the invisible elf, the idea of planetary influence on human psychology has a deductive logical plausibility, albeit one that lacks any inductive evidence to support it and is far far weaker than the claims that have been made for it.

Jung claims that everything that happens at any given moment in a chaotic system is united by a common quality that is specific to that moment, somewhat like all the water in a river being marked by the unique properties of that river, and that humans can detect this quality by psychic intuition. It is a way of imagining the solar system as a dynamic whole, with human psychology as a sensitive indicator of the overall cyclic shape of the whole as it affects the earth. The problem is that this intuitive story of a synchronous structure of time is not backed by systematic observation.

Do you really believe any of this "gobbledeegook"? Your sentence has no meaning, yet you post it as if it "explains" everything.
My sentence about the solar system tries to explain why people believe in astrology, and does not ‘explain everything’. I then stated this story is not backed by observation.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-04, 07:29 AM
Jung would have them originating in some "collective unconscious"; most psychologists would say that we're evolved to see patterns, and sometimes we see patterns where none exists.
Or to say it with a pithy quote “The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head”.
Pratchett naturally.

Van Rijn
2010-May-04, 08:42 AM
A reason for the persistence of popular astrological belief, and the low level of belief in elves, is that astrology fits into other beliefs that are deductively plausible and seem to be helpful, whereas belief in elves does not.


You're missing the point. You made the statement that "evidence to date has not proved it [astrology] is impossible." It's not a useful statement. The same argument can be made about invisible elves. Until you can show the evidence, you haven't demonstrated any important distinction between a belief in astrology and a belief in elves.

Robert Tulip
2010-May-04, 12:09 PM
You're missing the point. You made the statement that "evidence to date has not proved it [astrology] is impossible." It's not a useful statement. The same argument can be made about invisible elves. Until you can show the evidence, you haven't demonstrated any important distinction between a belief in astrology and a belief in elves.I hope you don't mind me continuing to worry away at this discussion. Scientifically, you are absolutely correct that merely possible truths, whether your elves or any other, are useless when there is no evidence for them. Where the difference would exist is when a hypothesis has a plausible scientific research program to find evidence. Such a program has not yet been found for astrology.

Astrology starts from the observation that the earth has stable seasonal patterns that are effectively permanent on human time scales. All life participates in these patterns, most obviously with deciduous trees budding in spring and losing their leaves in fall. Human departure from natural cycles is very recent on evolutionary time scales.

The logic goes, we can see the rhythm of the seasons in nature, we are part of nature, therefore the rhythm of the seasons must be embedded in human life too. This has provided the basis for an ancient narrative mythology. Where scientists find it appalling is that this imagined natural pattern is sub-statistical in its effects.

The question of why the year should divide in twelve months rather than any other number seems arbitrary. Twelve has a geometric neatness, for example the number of spheres that can touch a sphere of the same size, and we do have the natural division of the year in four at the solstices and equinoxes. Yet there is no evidence that this neatness, an imaginary elegance, has any consistent effect.

Compared to the imaginary elf, astrology seeks to answer the question of how human life is attuned to cosmic cycles, whereas the elf is only useful to demonstrate scientific epistemology. I can imagine readers find these comments frustrating, exploring the logic of a folk belief that has zero confirmed evidence to date, with 'cosmic attunement' looking like a fatalistic throwback to the dark ages. Where I find it more useful than the elf is that the study of natural cycles remains open to further scientific research.

The verdict 'not impossible' means we can still investigate if life on earth does actually follow unseen patterns. Gauquelin's book The Cosmic Clocks has a wealth of information about surprising cycles, for example that some mammals such as rats and hamsters seem to have a gravitational sense for the position of the moon. It may be that this 'sense' in humans is like whale legs, withered from millions of years of disuse. It makes sense that oysters can sense the moon to know when to open, but there is no comparable use of such a sense for humans.

Strange
2010-May-04, 12:33 PM
To avoid the 'rubbish' tag, astrology has to find a non-zero robust correlation, however small.

There is a big difference between finding a "vanishingly small" correlation and proving that astrology has any meanignful predictive power. Even if it could avoid the "rubbish" tag (which I doubt, based on the evidence so far) it certainly could not avoid the "useless" and "meaningless" tags.

Strange
2010-May-04, 12:43 PM
Gauquelin's book The Cosmic Clocks has a wealth of information about surprising cycles, for example that some mammals such as rats and hamsters seem to have a gravitational sense for the position of the moon.

That example is not particularly compelling. We know the moon has a huge effect on the earth: look at those billions of tons of water being pushed around all the time. Even if some animals are sensitive to such a grossly visible effect, so what? That says nothing about them being affected by something undetectable.

Strange
2010-May-04, 12:47 PM
Consider an analogy with a salmon river. All the water in the river is marked by a defined chemical scent that by human standards has homeopathic dilution but by salmon standards is enough to guide them home from the deep ocean.

My understanding is that salmon use a variety of means to navigate; the main one being sight. If the scents of the river had "homeopathic dilution" then they wouldn't exist and the salmon wouldn't be able to deteect them. (Presumably, they are very sensitive to the mineral and biological content of the water they spawned in.)

Trying to support an argument for one (probably) non-existent effect based on another (certainly) non-existent effect isn't very convincing...

grant hutchison
2010-May-04, 04:02 PM
The verdict 'not impossible' means we can still investigate if life on earth does actually follow unseen patterns. Gauquelin's book The Cosmic Clocks has a wealth of information about surprising cycles, for example that some mammals such as rats and hamsters seem to have a gravitational sense for the position of the moon.This sense is most likely mediated by light: there's a melatonin cycle in many nocturnal or crepuscular mammals in response to the changing brightness of the moon's phases, and a steroid cycle in response to varying activity levels in association with varying illumination. No great mystery there.
Oysters, of course, simply sense the tidal flow of water, which is important for their feeding. (Reports that laboratory oysters open at the appropriate tidal times in their tideless tanks seem to have originated with Lyall Watson in Supernature, and don't seem to be borne out in reality. There are similar sporadic claims for laboratory rats.)
Again, we have to be careful to understand that there are many different hormones and other biological markers available, all of them rising and falling for all sorts of reasons. Without a predictive hypothesis, there's very little of interest to be gained by trawling datasets for correlations.

Grant Hutchison

Paul Beardsley
2010-May-04, 04:32 PM
When my brother and I were very young, we wondered if turning a key before inserting it into a lock would have the same effect as turning it after. It sort-of felt right that it would.

When we got the chance to try it out, we realised we were wrong, and we moved on.

Similarly, I can see how people can buy into this "attuned with nature" idea, and, as a result, suppose that there is something in astrology.

But it's as if they've turned the key, inserted it in the lock, and gone on to persist with their bogus belief in spite of the evidence.

Gillianren
2010-May-04, 06:31 PM
And I have to say, you know, say we're attuned to the seasons and nature and so forth. That doesn't mean where Mars is in its orbit and therefore in our sky has anything to do with anything. Location on Earth would have more to do with that--it's probably twenty degrees warmer back home than it is here, and they almost certainly didn't have rain yesterday. That's a lot more important, I would think.

Robert Tulip
2010-May-05, 10:23 AM
There is a big difference between finding a "vanishingly small" correlation and proving that astrology has any meaningful predictive power. Even if it could avoid the "rubbish" tag (which I doubt, based on the evidence so far) it certainly could not avoid the "useless" and "meaningless" tags.
The discussion here on the debate over the BBC comments has shown that the argument for astrology is weaker than the case made by the astrologers who complained about Cox’s description of astrology as rubbish. The scientific argument that weak astrological effects have been demonstrated statistically is itself very weak, with no uncontested findings.

That example [lunar gravity] is not particularly compelling. We know the moon has a huge effect on the earth: look at those billions of tons of water being pushed around all the time.
Just for quantitative interest, ‘billions of tons’ is an understatement. There are one billion tons of water per cubic kilometre, and something like two billion cubic kilometres of water on the earth. The earth has billions of billions of tons of water. If 0.1% of the ocean moves with each tide, that is still a million billion tons moving up and down nearly twice a day.

Even if some animals are sensitive to such a grossly visible effect, so what?
The ‘so what?’ is that (i) the moon establishes constant tidal rhythms in all stable liquids of the earth, and (ii) the question what animal sense is able to detect such lunar rhythms is unresolved. To illustrate this, and to respond to Grant Hutchinson’s comments, it is worth noting some comments from Gauquelin.

An extraordinary chapter in The Cosmic Clocks discusses the empirical research of Frank A. Brown Jr., Morrison Professor of Biology at Northwestern University, Illinois. Brown conducted a series of laboratory experiments in which various animals were deprived of any external stimulus to measure the response of their body clocks.

“A rat was kept for months in a closed cage with constant light, temperature and pressure. There was no way for the rat to know if it was night or day, whether the moon was above or below the horizon. When Brown and Terracini recorded the rat’s physical activity, they found clear peaks in activity corresponding to the moon’s position: the rat was more active during the hours in which the moon was below the horizon, and quietest when it was above the horizon… The above experiment has been duplicated and confirmed.” (cited by Gauquelin, p.85, from ‘Exogenous Timing of Rat Spontaneous Activity Periods” Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biological Medicine, CI, No 3 (1959) 457).

How can this be explained? There is a clear evolutionary adaptive advantage for a rat to be active when the moon is down in order to avoid predators who hunt by sight. Given the lack of sensory stimulus in the experimental conditions, it appears the rat senses the position of the moon in an unknown way.

“Brown was recording the activity of hamsters… At first the rodents synchronized their activity with the rising and setting of the sun, which was probably their natural rhythm before they had been confined to their cages. Then, suddenly, the 24 hour rhythm changed to a new, slightly longer rhythm, one that lasted 24 hours 50 minutes. This period corresponds exactly to the length of the lunar day… Their pattern of activity switched through the study, first following one and then the other of the two celestial bodies – without their ever knowing the position of either in the darkness of their experimental lodgings.” (cited by Gauquelin, p.85, Propensity for Lunar Periodicity in Hamsters, op cit, CXX (1965) 792)

“Brown had some live oysters sent in closed, darkened containers from Long Island Sound to his laboratory in Evanston, 1000 miles from the sea… At first the oysters kept to their natural rhythm, opening and closing themselves to the rhythm of the tides washing Long Island Sound. But after about 15 days Brown noticed that a slippage in the rhythm had occurred. The oysters now opened up at the time the tide would have flooded Evanston, had the town been on the seashore – ie when the moon passed over the local meridian. The oysters had abandoned their rhythm tied to actual tides and responded to an exclusively lunar rhythm.” (cited from ‘Persistent Activity Rhythms in the Oyster’, American Journal of Physiology, CLXVII 1954, 510).

These three examples illustrate how animals seem to be adapted to the gravitational rhythms of the moon. Brown notes that “definite hostility met anyone who as much as suggested that one might search for subtle celestial influences” (Gauquelin p. ii). Gauquelin (p86) says Brown offers an explanation that the rhythms are external, arguing these three experiments taken together show that internal clocks of the organisms were not sufficient to obtain the observed results.



My understanding is that salmon use a variety of means to navigate; the main one being sight. If the scents of the river had "homeopathic dilution" then they wouldn't exist and the salmon wouldn't be able to detect them. (Presumably, they are very sensitive to the mineral and biological content of the water they spawned in.) I used ‘homeopathic’ to just mean undetectable by human standards. In the deep ocean where adult salmon live, there are few visual cues, and the ability to detect a river by scent alone is an example of very sensitive animal sense.

This sense is most likely mediated by light: there's a melatonin cycle in many nocturnal or crepuscular mammals in response to the changing brightness of the moon's phases, and a steroid cycle in response to varying activity levels in association with varying illumination. No great mystery there. Oysters, of course, simply sense the tidal flow of water, which is important for their feeding. (Reports that laboratory oysters open at the appropriate tidal times in their tideless tanks seem to have originated with Lyall Watson in Supernature, and don't seem to be borne out in reality. There are similar sporadic claims for laboratory rats.) Again, we have to be careful to understand that there are many different hormones and other biological markers available, all of them rising and falling for all sorts of reasons. Without a predictive hypothesis, there's very little of interest to be gained by trawling datasets for correlations.The experiments by Brown cited above are earlier than Watson’s book. Trawling datasets can draw attention to anomalies.

When my brother and I were very young, we wondered if turning a key before inserting it into a lock would have the same effect as turning it after. It sort-of felt right that it would. When we got the chance to try it out, we realised we were wrong, and we moved on. Similarly, I can see how people can buy into this "attuned with nature" idea, and, as a result, suppose that there is something in astrology. But it's as if they've turned the key, inserted it in the lock, and gone on to persist with their bogus belief in spite of the evidence.
Another way to look at it is that we know astrologers have failed to match birth charts to individuals in tests with strong predictability. If the astrological effect is so weak, succeeding in these tests may be rather like asking people to crack safes by feeling the tumblers fall into position – very difficult. However, when the combination is known, we open the safe first time.
And I have to say, you know, say we're attuned to the seasons and nature and so forth. That doesn't mean where Mars is in its orbit and therefore in our sky has anything to do with anything. Location on Earth would have more to do with that--it's probably twenty degrees warmer back home than it is here, and they almost certainly didn't have rain yesterday. That's a lot more important, I would think.
Yes, terrestrial factors are the only known influences on evolutionary adaptation, apart from the tidal patterns produced by the moon and other known cosmic factors such as impacts and solar variance. Statistical tests to date have shown that any planetary influences are weaker than existing methods can detect. This suggests that the stories told by astrologers are more pure imagination than intuition of something real, especially where the stories contradict, such as the Indian use of sidereal star positions versus the western use of the tropical zodiac.

Where science can usefully critique popular astrology is by supporting empirical research into actual cyclic patterns, extending methods of medical research which identify health risk factors through epidemiological data analysis.

Strange
2010-May-05, 11:47 AM
Just for quantitative interest, ‘billions of tons’ is an understatement.

I had a suspicion it might be :)


Given the lack of sensory stimulus in the experimental conditions, it appears the rat senses the position of the moon in an unknown way.

I think that is a bit of a leap. We know quite a lot more about the biochemical basis of circadian rhythms than we did 40 years ago. One thing we know is that are multiple biological "clocks" some with periods longer than 24 hours and some shorter. These "compete" to keep the cycle at roughly 24 hours. This cycle is kept in sync by exposure to light (famously, even to the back of the knee). In the absence of light different animals will move to a period longer or shorter than 24 hours depending on which "clock" cycle dominates. I think this can explain a lot of the findings reported here.

In the case of the oysters, did they really drift to the tides at Evanston, or did their timing just end up coinciding with the tides there? I would want to see oysters moved to a variety of locations to confirm this.


These three examples illustrate how animals seem to be adapted to the gravitational rhythms of the moon.

Or light. I am not aware of any studies confirming sensitivity to gravity - but this is way outside my area of expertise (as is pretty much everything!)


I used ‘homeopathic’ to just mean undetectable by human standards. In the deep ocean where adult salmon live, there are few visual cues, and the ability to detect a river by scent alone is an example of very sensitive animal sense.

Fair enough. I certainly don't deny the incredible sensitivity of animals to their environment (and cues from other animals - e.g. the story of Clever Hans). The same is true of humans as well, of course, which accounts for a lot of "uncanny" experiences.

grant hutchison
2010-May-05, 12:42 PM
An extraordinary chapter in The Cosmic Clocks discusses the empirical research of Frank A. Brown Jr., Morrison Professor of Biology at Northwestern University, Illinois. Brown conducted a series of laboratory experiments in which various animals were deprived of any external stimulus to measure the response of their body clocks.<Sigh.>
"Extraordinary" only in that Brown's work keeps being trotted out in just the same way Gauquelin's is. I guess I'm not surprised that one should quote the other.
Brown, like Gauquelin, had an agenda: Brown's was that various organisms responded to some subtle geophysical zeitgeber rather than an internal biological clock. Brown's analysis was unblinded, and it sought patterns in large datasets. Are we beginning to see a pattern?
Brown's data were beautifully debunked by Lamont Cole's Biological Clock in the Unicorn (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1957Sci...125..874C) (1957), in which a random number table was analysed using Brown's technique, and a "diurnal rhythm" was identified.
Brown's flawed data would have quietly languished in well-deserved obscurity had it not been for Lyall Watson resuscitating them in Supernature, where they were uncritically reported as support for Watson's own agenda. So it's Watson who should take the rap for popularizing such bad science.

Grant Hutchison

Gillianren
2010-May-05, 05:18 PM
Yes, terrestrial factors are the only known influences on evolutionary adaptation, apart from the tidal patterns produced by the moon and other known cosmic factors such as impacts and solar variance. Statistical tests to date have shown that any planetary influences are weaker than existing methods can detect. This suggests that the stories told by astrologers are more pure imagination than intuition of something real, especially where the stories contradict, such as the Indian use of sidereal star positions versus the western use of the tropical zodiac.

Right. So looking to the actual nature around the organism makes sense and looking at the distant planets doesn't, right?


Where science can usefully critique popular astrology is by supporting empirical research into actual cyclic patterns, extending methods of medical research which identify health risk factors through epidemiological data analysis.

And it's done that. You just don't like the answer and are grasping at straws to avoid it.

grant hutchison
2010-May-05, 05:40 PM
<Sigh.>
"Extraordinary" only in that Brown's work keeps being trotted out in just the same way Gauquelin's is. I guess I'm not surprised that one should quote the other.
Brown, like Gauquelin, had an agenda: Brown's was that various organisms responded to some subtle geophysical zeitgeber rather than an internal biological clock. Brown's analysis was unblinded, and it sought patterns in large datasets. Are we beginning to see a pattern?More on this.
Ernest Naylor has written about l'affaire Brown in his new book Chronobiology of Marine Organisms. The relevant text is available on-line here (http://assets.cambridge.org/97805217/60539/excerpt/9780521760539_excerpt.pdf) (200KB pdf). Naylor gives useful historical context, including the rather primitive nature of biological statistics at the time, as well as the lack of understanding of the feedback mechanisms which can regulate the rate of a "biological clock" in the face of temperature changes.

Grant Hutchison

Robert Tulip
2010-May-05, 11:16 PM
More on this.
Ernest Naylor has written about l'affaire Brown in his new book Chronobiology of Marine Organisms. The relevant text is available on-line here (http://assets.cambridge.org/97805217/60539/excerpt/9780521760539_excerpt.pdf) (200KB pdf). Naylor gives useful historical context, including the rather primitive nature of biological statistics at the time, as well as the lack of understanding of the feedback mechanisms which can regulate the rate of a "biological clock" in the face of temperature changes.

Grant Hutchison

Thank you very much Grant, I was not aware of this background. Naylor's new book Chronobiology of Marine Organisms (http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780511685651) in the extract available makes several attacks on Brown for leading an unscientific approach to biological cycles, suggesting guilt by association with biorhythms. I would love to read Naylor's whole book to get the full story about endogenous and exogenous rhythmicity. Nothing in Naylor's extract including his summary of Cole's amusing unicorn paper (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1754178) addresses Brown's moon cycle experiments directly. The comment on metabolic oxygen consumption pours scorn on Brown’s methods, but does not explain where Brown went wrong. Considering Professor Brown’s comment that his theory of exogenous cycles was viewed with hostility by the scientific establishment, I would be really interested in the detail of this debate, and whether inconvenient findings from Brown could have been brushed aside. The Evanston oyster experiment is a prima facie proof that oysters can adjust their endogenous cycle to detect the actual location of the moon with no known external stimulus.

Van Rijn
2010-May-05, 11:47 PM
random number table [/I]was analysed using Brown's technique, and a "diurnal rhythm" was identified.


The abstract here:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/1754178

is just a bit unusual. Quoting:


Abstract

Eoörnis pterovelox gobiensis, the Rhinogradentia, Brunus edwardii, Apus duras, the Schuss-yucca, Mammillaria busonii, Unowottia, Chimonobambusa quadrangularis, the Loch Ness monster, the Diet of Worms, the fizzing of coffee, thiotimolene, armpitin, ...

Are these actually mentioned in the article?

grant hutchison
2010-May-06, 07:35 AM
The Evanston oyster experiment is a prima facie proof that oysters can adjust their endogenous cycle to detect the actual location of the moon with no known external stimulus.No, it isn't, for reasons Cole's paper made clear. Brown searched for specific rhythms and found them; but a search for any specific rhythm, using his technique, is met with success, even in random data. Fortunately his data survived his death and have been reanalysed: they're more compatible with a population that has some intrinsic rhythmicity, but which is drifting asynchronously because of lack of zeitgeber input. The oysters have an inbuilt diurnal rhythm, but progressively drift out of synch with their original tidal signal when placed in a non-tidal tank. During that drift, they generated data that Brown was able to interpret as synchronizing to the moon in Illinois.

Grant Hutchison

grant hutchison
2010-May-06, 09:44 AM
The abstract here:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/1754178

is just a bit unusual.
...
Are these actually mentioned in the article?That's odd. The original is short (just a couple of pages), and doesn't have an abstract. I'll dig out my copy this afternoon and double-check, but it looks as if there's been some sort of weird database leakage at JSTOR.

Grant Hutchison

harkeppler
2010-May-06, 10:13 AM
At all there is no evidence for any chronobiological effect to be "astrological".

It is allways the same: if there is any discussion on astrology, more an more "deeper" and far laying "arguments" are brought in. At the ends, some tragic oysters are the great evidence.

But basically, astrology is:

- You go to an astrologer, You get a lot of lousy remarks. In each case there are several "celestial object" (like medium coeli) in wrong positions (because two dimensional celestial coordinates are projeted to a flat sheet of paper) used to give some hints.

- The typicall astrologic look into future is reduced today toward useless "psychological" commentaries about the "personal inventory" the customer had. This follows the sentence, that each prognosis failed in any test. But prognosis was the main purpose of astrology in history. Now, "synthesis" dubbed stupid psycho-blabla seems to allow a more "effective" astrological business.

- Typical horoscopes does not have anything to do with Gauqelin´s sectors or any psychological theory.

- For every pattern in a so called horosope, there is a flood of possible interpretations, but there is no evidence for. Asking for that, everything is "intitutiv", "psychic" or "hemetic knowledge".

- Astrology is a primitive manner to discriminate persons. If some idiot looks for personal and is astrological manipulated, he will hot hire several "characters" due to their special astrological features like being "scorpion" or having a "scorpion ascendent". This is not new. In mid 1930 there was a strict connection between blooming astrology in Germany, rascist parties, antisemitism and the "Thule organization" which was a loge-like system of rich people "behind the curtain" to manpulate republic and empirial influenced politics. Most of the "wellknown" German astrologers were nazis. In the SS-organization "Ahnenerbe" Heinrich Himmlers gatheres with astrologers to find "results" for his own reincarnation als Emperor Heinrich I and to get hints of superior germanic races. There are rumors that the well-kown "star disk of Nebra" is a falsification out of that time. Interestingly, after the England flight of Rudolf Hess (who was a believer in astrology) and the Hitler (who was not) bomb act 1944, first several and then most astrologers was sent into concentration camps.Furthermore, there was a nice try to fake a german astrological magazine namend "Zenith" in London and send it to Germany, where the original issue was published by the "Astrologische Zentralstelle", a astrologic organization. After the war, the same people which had given advice "to detect jews by their horoscopes" were able to publish astrology books for students and helped to establish a new european astrological network like Grimm, Kloeckler and a lot of others. Interestingly, Thule Organization, NSDAP and other weird structures were mostly esoteric.

- At the end, You get a bill - that is main reason why astrology is promoted.

In some aspects, astrology is a religion and it worked like a religion. And, like other religions, its basic is superstition. Nothing else. The problem that the main churches cannot act against astrology, is, that one superstition cannot fight another with logical arguments.

I think, that several thousands of years ago, when men (and women) lifed in packs gathering food, there was a typical hierarchiy. Some actual elements of behaviour today are tribal or instinct remains. So, hierarchy is normally respected. The background may be, that the people in the prehistoric packs were able to have hierarchical fights for a better position, but there was a hindering "program" to stabilize the pack most time and to allow useful action of all members. This means, that any rivalism was supperessed a larger or littler bit by a genetic effect.

Tody, the sudden and strange fact that "small people" are "believing" whatever they are said seems to be a relict of that. So, even the most stupid nonsens is believed it it comes from some institution, a govenment or a "the majority".

Furthermore, any religion seems to be a prolongation and projection of any human hierarachy into infinity. You find religions around the globe, not because there is any god at all, but more because every human has a "psychic defect" to allow and establish illogic thinking.

Mayby astrology is one of the oldest types of religion.

Psychology seems to be some sort of religion, too. It is a pseudoscience, and for decades there is the practice shown that psychologist gather in esoteric themes. Several international magazins, like "Psychologie heute" in germany look like a avertising issue for astrologers. The same is seen in France and Great Britain.

grant hutchison
2010-May-06, 03:03 PM
I'll dig out my copy this afternoon and double-check, but it looks as if there's been some sort of weird database leakage at JSTOR.My filing system seems to have failed, and my local institutional copy is in remote storage. But here (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/pdf_extract/125/3253/874) is the first page of Cole's article, just to confirm the absence of an abstract of any kind in the original.

Grant Hutchison

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-06, 05:34 PM
Just for quantitative interest, ‘billions of tons’ is an understatement. There are one billion tons of water per cubic kilometre, and something like two billion cubic kilometres of water on the earth. The earth has billions of billions of tons of water. If 0.1% of the ocean moves with each tide, that is still a million billion tons moving up and down nearly twice a day.
The movement is mainly sideways.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-06, 05:43 PM
In mid 1930 there was a strict connection between blooming astrology in Germany, rascist parties, antisemitism and the "Thule organization" which was a loge-like system of rich people "behind the curtain" to manpulate republic and empirial influenced politics. Most of the "wellknown" German astrologers were nazis.
Godwin fail.

Gillianren
2010-May-06, 06:25 PM
I know one of the wartime responses was for the British to drop "fake" horoscopes which declared disaster for the Germans in the hopes that anyone foolish enough to think the stars would indicate it one way or another would create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Van Rijn
2010-May-06, 10:02 PM
My filing system seems to have failed, and my local institutional copy is in remote storage. But here (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/pdf_extract/125/3253/874) is the first page of Cole's article, just to confirm the absence of an abstract of any kind in the original.

Grant Hutchison

Thanks for checking, Grant. My suspicion was that somebody had a grand time writing the so-called abstract, but given the title of the article, I wasn't sure if perhaps it really was in it.

grant hutchison
2010-May-08, 01:30 AM
Thanks for checking, Grant. My suspicion was that somebody had a grand time writing the so-called abstract, but given the title of the article, I wasn't sure if perhaps it really was in it.That abstract turns out to be the first part of a real abstract from a paper written quarter of a century later. It comes from Ralph Lewin's Humor in the scientific literature (http://www.jstor.org/pss/1309040).
As I said, JSTOR seems to have sprung a weird database leak.

Grant Hutchison

Robert Tulip
2010-May-08, 10:31 AM
Brown, like Gauquelin, had an agenda: Brown's was that various organisms responded to some subtle geophysical zeitgeber rather than an internal biological clock. Brown's analysis was unblinded, and it sought patterns in large datasets. Are we beginning to see a pattern?...it's Watson who should take the rap for popularizing such bad science.
Seeking patterns in large datasets is a method used to analyse complex systems to find statistical trends. If a natural trend exists in the data, with a signal that is extremely weak, a good way to find it can be to conduct a large survey. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictive_analytics says 'Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of techniques from statistics, data mining and game theory that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future events ... used in financial services, insurance, telecommunications, retail, travel, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and other fields. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_mining

If the 'zeitgeber' is an 'initial condition' for a complex system, then removing the organism from the system can break the sensitive chain of cause and effect and destroy the evidence. Perhaps while oysters are in their natural home they do sense the moon as marking the tides.

grant hutchison
2010-May-08, 12:18 PM
Seeking patterns in large datasets is a method used to analyse complex systems to find statistical trends.And it's often done very badly, as was demonstrated in Brown's case. We're better at it now than we were in the 1950s, but it still provides at best very tentative conclusions, which are more often wrong than they are right. This is a simple mathematical truth, not some personal bias on my part.


If the 'zeitgeber' is an 'initial condition' for a complex system, then removing the organism from the system can break the sensitive chain of cause and effect and destroy the evidence. Perhaps while oysters are in their natural home they do sense the moon as marking the tides.And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Grant Hutchison

Disinfo Agent
2010-May-08, 01:43 PM
Interesting post, harkeppler, and some excellent points:


It is allways the same: if there is any discussion on astrology, more an more "deeper" and far laying "arguments" are brought in. At the ends, some tragic oysters are the great evidence.

But basically, astrology is:

- You go to an astrologer, You get a lot of lousy remarks. In each case there are several "celestial object" (like medium coeli) in wrong positions (because two dimensional celestial coordinates are projeted to a flat sheet of paper) used to give some hints.

- The typicall astrologic look into future is reduced today toward useless "psychological" commentaries about the "personal inventory" the customer had. This follows the sentence, that each prognosis failed in any test. But prognosis was the main purpose of astrology in history. Now, "synthesis" dubbed stupid psycho-blabla seems to allow a more "effective" astrological business.

- Typical horoscopes does not have anything to do with Gauqelin´s sectors or any psychological theory.Incidentally, welcome to the forum. :)

grant hutchison
2010-May-08, 02:01 PM
Robert Tulip, on the hazards of "data mining", you might consider looking at Ioannidis's discussion of this topic in Why Most Published Research Findings Are False (http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124).
In particular:
Box 1. An Example: Science at Low Pre-Study Odds

Let us assume that a team of investigators performs a whole genome association study to test whether any of 100,000 gene polymorphisms are associated with susceptibility to schizophrenia. Based on what we know about the extent of heritability of the disease, it is reasonable to expect that probably around ten gene polymorphisms among those tested would be truly associated with schizophrenia, with relatively similar odds ratios around 1.3 for the ten or so polymorphisms and with a fairly similar power to identify any of them. Then R = 10/100,000 = 10−4, and the pre-study probability for any polymorphism to be associated with schizophrenia is also R/(R + 1) = 10−4. 1Let us also suppose that the study has 60% power to find an association with an odds ratio of 1.3 at α = 0.05. Then it can be estimated that if a statistically significant association is found with the p-value barely crossing the 0.05 threshold, the post-study probability that this is true increases about 12-fold compared with the pre-study probability, but it is still only 12 × 10−4.

Now let us suppose that the investigators manipulate their design, analyses, and reporting so as to make more relationships cross the p = 0.05 threshold even though this would not have been crossed with a perfectly adhered to design and analysis and with perfect comprehensive reporting of the results, strictly according to the original study plan. Such manipulation could be done, for example, with serendipitous inclusion or exclusion of certain patients or controls, post hoc subgroup analyses, investigation of genetic contrasts that were not originally specified, changes in the disease or control definitions, and various combinations of selective or distorted reporting of the results. Commercially available “data mining” packages actually are proud of their ability to yield statistically significant results through data dredging. In the presence of bias with u = 0.10, the post-study probability that a research finding is true is only 4.4 × 10−4. Furthermore, even in the absence of any bias, when ten independent research teams perform similar experiments around the world, if one of them finds a formally statistically significant association, the probability that the research finding is true is only 1.5 × 10−4, hardly any higher than the probability we had before any of this extensive research was undertaken!
The essential points are (as I've described already):
1) A very low pretest probability of one's hypothesis being correct leads to a very low posttest probability. Despite a statistically significant correlation emerging from the data, the hypothesis is still much more likely to be untrue than true.
2) The introduction of bias to the analysis process effectively destroys the usefulness of the analysis.

Grant Hutchison

Gillianren
2010-May-08, 05:16 PM
And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Completely off-topic, but I love that phrase.

grant hutchison
2010-May-08, 06:28 PM
Completely off-topic, but I love that phrase.I do, too. :)
A Scottish proverb BAUT occasionally gives me the opportunity to use.

Grant Hutchison

Gillianren
2010-May-08, 10:02 PM
There's also "if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there'd be no need for tinkers," which is equally hard to throw casually into conversation. Especially since, these days, you're like as not going to have to explain what a tinker is. (Even further off topic--a "tinker's dam" is not a curse. It's a little bit of mud or something used to keep the solder from running too far.)

Robert Tulip
2010-May-08, 10:46 PM
Robert Tulip, on the hazards of "data mining", you might consider looking at Ioannidis's discussion of this topic in Why Most Published Research Findings Are False (http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124).
The essential points are (as I've described already):
1) A very low pretest probability of one's hypothesis being correct leads to a very low post-test probability. Despite a statistically significant correlation emerging from the data, the hypothesis is still much more likely to be untrue than true.
2) The introduction of bias to the analysis process effectively destroys the usefulness of the analysis.
Grant Hutchison
Grant, bias in data mining is obviously a problem, but considering cycles as a scientific research program gives grounds to explore large datasets to look for trends. The assertion is that Gauquelin ‘dredged’ the data by mining with a preconceived agenda. I don’t think this is fair to him, as there is evidence he sought to maintain high scientific standards in his statistical analysis. Trying to find weak signals in the chaotic system of human life – looking for complex order amidst the chaos - can reasonably make use of data mining techniques.

Another finding from Gauquelin, which may prove more convincing than the Mars Effect, is his statistical analysis of the number of times words associated with planetary symbolism – jovial, martial, saturnine, mercurial – appear in biographies of famous people born when these planets are rising. This is the sort of work that can easily be replicated and tested.

Neither case [Gauquelin the quixotic fantasist twisting data to fit his claim, or this Mars Effect is so weak as to be practically irrelevant] strikes me as being much of a defense of astrology.Gillian, I’m now nearly finished reading Don Quixote, which I recall you have mentioned before. Mildly off topic, I somewhat identify with Don Quixote in his quixotic efforts to rescue the lost chivalric wisdom of knight errantry. It can sometimes be hard to tell if objects are giants or windmills. :)

grant hutchison
2010-May-08, 11:21 PM
The assertion is that Gauquelin ‘dredged’ the data by mining with a preconceived agenda. I don’t think this is fair to him, as there is evidence he sought to maintain high scientific standards in his statistical analysis.I made no such accusation. In fact, earlier on this thread I suggested that Gauquelin might well have been entirely unaware of the way in which he was selecting data.


Another finding from Gauquelin, which may prove more convincing than the Mars Effect, is his statistical analysis of the number of times words associated with planetary symbolism – jovial, martial, saturnine, mercurial – appear in biographies of famous people born when these planets are rising. This is the sort of work that can easily be replicated and tested.I can think of few more futile endeavours, but you must feel free.

Grant Hutchison

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-09, 12:00 AM
The assertion is that Gauquelin `dredged´ the data by mining with a preconceived agenda.
Actually the assertion is that Gauquelin failed to maintain proper blinding of his data and selected some after they were unblinded.
This is a well known trap for the unwary researcher which will lead to biased selection and an unusable result, whether they have an agenda or just an expectation of what the result should be and whether they're aware of this themselves.

Gillianren
2010-May-09, 08:29 AM
Gillian, I’m now nearly finished reading Don Quixote, which I recall you have mentioned before. Mildly off topic, I somewhat identify with Don Quixote in his quixotic efforts to rescue the lost chivalric wisdom of knight errantry. It can sometimes be hard to tell if objects are giants or windmills. :)

Not if you're not trapped in your own delusions. Quixote was not considered by his creator to be someone to emulate, and with good cause. Either way, it doesn't answer my actual point.

grant hutchison
2010-May-09, 02:32 PM
Actually the assertion is that Gauquelin failed to maintain proper blinding of his data and selected some after they were unblinded.
This is a well known trap for the unwary researcher which will lead to biased selection and an unusable result, whether they have an agenda or just an expectation of what the result should be and whether they're aware of this themselves.The irony is that Gauquelin had a doctorate in psychology and statistics, which should have prepared him very well to see and avoid this pitfall. And yet we find him adding and removing data points in an unblinded way, with post hoc justification.
Another blind spot Gauquelin seems to have had, and his boosters certainly have, is a degree of confusion about the meaning of statistical significance. It seems to be a common error to interpret the "p" value of a hypothesis test as being the probability that the null hypothesis is true. So we find Gauquelin claiming that his statistically significant result "demands explanation", as if he had somehow confirmed the "Mars Effect" to some high level of certainty.

Grant Hutchison

harkeppler
2010-May-09, 03:02 PM
A lot of Gauquelin´s data are online available

http://cura.free.fr/gauq/17archg.html

Maybe someone will find out how planet Melmac in the third house influences the birth rate of hairy characters

As Wikipedia quotes:

Although he was highly critical of certain areas of the art, Gauquelin showed an interest in astrology from an early age; it is said that he could calculate a birth chart at the age of ten and earned the nickname of "Nostradamus" at school because of his astrological readings. After studying psychology and statistics at the Sorbonne, he devoted his life to the attempt to demonstrate the validity of certain fundamentals of astrology. However, he did not define himself as an astrologer and opposed the practice of astrology.

Yepp, little "Nostradamus".

I see some parallels to the "Benveniste Homeopathy study" in some cases. If looked carefully, the effect disappears.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-09, 04:37 PM
I see some parallels to the "Benveniste Homeopathy study" in some cases. If looked carefully, the effect disappears.
That one also suffered from a lack of blinding.

If I remember correctly that one worked by determining the efficiency of the dilution by counting the surviving bacteria in a sample in a microscope, a method somewhat subjective and thus susceptible to interpretation, but the person doing the counting knew which dilution they had been treated with.
Once blinding was introduced, so the person counting didn't know which dilution had been used, the effect disappeared.

Robert Tulip
2010-May-10, 07:27 AM
Not if you're not trapped in your own delusions. Quixote was not considered by his creator to be someone to emulate, and with good cause. Either way, it doesn't answer my actual point.Where data is inadequate, we can't pronounce with certainty. Cervantes is somewhat ambiguous about Don Quixote, who has some admirable qualities among the madness, making it unclear who Cervantes really regards as delusional. The general assumption is that Quixote is a deluded fool, but he is also admired for showing the courage of his convictions, and for having convictions in the first place in a context of general cynicism.

The Enchanted Bark (http://www.online-literature.com/cervantes/don_quixote/87/) explains Don Quixote's views on astronomy, although he rapidly veers back to windmill hunting.
"of the three hundred and sixty degrees that this terraqueous globe contains, as computed by Ptolemy, the greatest cosmographer known, we shall have travelled one-half when we come to the line I spoke of. … " said Don Quixote, "... you know nothing about colures, lines, parallels, zodiacs, ecliptics, poles, solstices, equinoxes, planets, signs, bearings, the measures of which the celestial and terrestrial spheres are composed; if you were acquainted with all these things, or any portion of them, you would see clearly how many parallels we have cut, what signs we have seen, and what constellations we have left behind and are now leaving behind. … They now came in sight of some large water mills that stood in the middle of the river, and the instant Don Quixote saw them he cried out, "See there, my friend? there stands the castle or fortress, where there is, no doubt, some knight in durance, or ill-used queen, or infanta, or princess, in whose aid I am brought hither." "What the devil city, fortress, or castle is your worship talking about, senor?" said Sancho; "don't you see that those are mills that stand in the river to grind corn?" Citing Ptolemy as the greatest authority is of a piece with Quixote's delusions. Cervantes is an advocate for modern empiricism, but he also invites the reader to consider what pearls may have been lost among the discarded dross of the medieval world.

As with Don Quixote, a reader of the BBC debate can jump to conclusions based on initial impressions. Cervantes suggests withholding judgement about Don Quixote to some extent.

The relevance here is that it remains debatable how science should respond to the question of whether research on astrology could find anything of scientific interest. Most astrology is obviously non-empirical, a form of quixotic delusion. But, if Gauquelin provided guidance towards the detection of very weak cyclic planetary signals, his work helps to assess how future research in this field could be done.

Strange
2010-May-10, 08:43 AM
Perhaps while oysters are in their natural home they do sense the moon as marking the tides.

Perhaps. Or maybe they just sense the tides.

Gillianren
2010-May-10, 08:47 AM
Who cares what Don Quixote thought about astrology? The point I raised, which you have continued to ignore, is that a vanishingly small result is exactly as helpful as a non-existent one when it comes to making any kind of prediction whatsoever. No one has ever, using good science, shown that astrology is any more valid than phlogiston. No one has ever been able to demonstrate the slightest hint of a causal agency to be considered. No one has ever been able to show that a proper examination of the evidence is any better a predictor than chance. Given all that, well, it may not be nonsense, but it certainly isn't sense.

harkeppler
2010-May-10, 09:43 AM
Interestingly, the Benveniste stuff shows some remarkable parallels:

0. A weird idea (extremly dilluted compunds will cure illness) is taken as a scientific fact, although it is absurd.

1. A relatively complex biochemical stuff is done with antibodies and so on people not common with cannot understand. Payed is the "study" by a company selling homeopathics.

2. The experiment itself have nothing to do with "common homeopathy" which uses completly ridiculous compounds like egyptic mummies, gold, arsenic, snake poison, several common salts and funny essences from plant without any pharmaceutical effect in nearly infinitly dilution.

3. After finding a "positive result" with some crummy statistics, this is directly used to "proof" for homeopathy at all.

4. The editor of Nature, John Maddox, and James Randi have a look on the "lab practice" of Mr. Benveniste, and the scandal is complete.

Homepathy does come from a quack named "Samuel Hahnemann" who lifed in an age arount that time, when Dalton and Mendelejev thought about atoms and elements and so Hahnemann was not informed that matter is composed out of discrete particles and does not come continously - so You cannot "dillute" everything ad infinitum. Furthermore, Hahnemann was selling useless "medicines" (always only interested in money) and several times charged by local courts.

Gauquelin is the same: he was a "psychologist" doing whole his life astrology and therefore a "scientific quack". Everything is analogous. Only point 4.) does not occur as clear as above. The Gauquelin statement was analysed several times, but the scandal does not come to the public eye clearly.

But before coping with Gauquelins "statistics", there a a few points to be looked carefully:

- Gauquelin uses birth date like an astrologer; birth time has no biological meaning, is difficult to get in most cases and is in several times wrong.

- The discriminator "famous" is not scientific. Who is famous? Let´s take astronomers: Galileo is famous today, but was he 1610? In 1600, there have been only a few astronomers, today there are several 10.000. Interestingly, one is able to get "birth dates" on "famous" people much easier than of "not so famous ones".

- If You do a statistical test light bulbs, lets take a sample of 100 out of a whole of 10.000 and look: if five are not working, You can be sure that there is a mere fraction of five percent of defective ones at all. In the Gauquelin tests, there is a problem what is the whole. How many athletes does have existed over the span Gauquelin is looking for at all? Which fraction is his sample? It is very easy only to use this ones which are wellcome. Gauqelins coworkes may have "helped" him to get the "right results" There is no possibility to do that analysis blind or double-blind, because every data elements is discriminated by someone.

- Statistical correlation does not imply causation, especially not if the root of the hypothesis is remarkably wrong (birth time).

- Due to the fact that planets run along the eclipse with variable speed (as looked from earth) and sometimes backward (retrograd), nobody will wonder to have some "correlations" if combined with other not linear and wobbly data like the human birth rate.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-10, 04:00 PM
Homepathy does come from a quack named "Samuel Hahnemann" who lifed in an age arount that time, when Dalton and Mendelejev thought about atoms and elements and so Hahnemann was not informed that matter is composed out of discrete particles and does not come continously - so You cannot "dillute" everything ad infinitum. Furthermore, Hahnemann was selling useless "medicines" (always only interested in money) and several times charged by local courts.
Actually homeopathy comes from Paracelsus, an early experimental scientist, who started out by disregarding all previous authority (he even used a name which means above Celsus who at the time was considered the greatest ancient authority on medicine) in favor of conclusions driven by experiment.

That he got his conclusions wrong can to a large extent be explained by good experimental procedures being in their infancy.

If he'd lived now, he'd likely have been horrified that people slavishly follow his ideas after they've been shown by later experiments to be wrong, since slavish adherence to authority just because it's old is exactly the opposite of the principles he based his life on.

harkeppler
2010-May-10, 05:39 PM
Paracelsus: 1493-1541 around renaissance
Samuel Hahnemann: 1755–1843 modern times

Paracelsus gave some interesting information on the causes (entia) of illness

* Ens Astrorum or Ens Astrale - astral influences
* Ens Veneni - an incorporated poison
* Ens Naturale - constitution/predestination
* Ens Spirituale - influence of ghosts/spirits
* Ens Dei - influence of god


Hahnemann translated a book of William Cullen (1710-1790) which gives a hind to cure malaria with china-bark (chinin)

Robert Tulip
2010-May-11, 04:29 AM
Who cares what Don Quixote thought about astrology?
Don Quixote is a typical astrological crackpot. The BBC debate turns on whether scientists are justified in describing such crackpottery as rubbish. The mainstream assumption is that all astrologers are as crazy as Don Quixote. However, this ignores evidence that some astrologers show evidence of being sane and intelligent. Cervantes has a sort of admiration for his crazy chevalier, dubbing him the polestar of knight errancy, giving the suggestion that the surface errors may hide a deeper wisdom.

The point I raised, which you have continued to ignore, is that a vanishingly small result is exactly as helpful as a non-existent one when it comes to making any kind of prediction whatsoever. No one has ever, using good science, shown that astrology is any more valid than phlogiston. No one has ever been able to demonstrate the slightest hint of a causal agency to be considered. No one has ever been able to show that a proper examination of the evidence is any better a predictor than chance.
It is a very good point Gillian, and one that continues to consign astrology to rubbish status. Where your phlogiston analogy breaks down though, is that subsequent science proved that the phlogiston theory was wrong, and such decisive refutation has not occurred for astrology. Science has found that many or most astrological claims are false, but has not replaced the hypothesis of a causal agency with something better, as phlogiston was replaced by oxygen. Instead, astronomy has corralled astrology into a tighter net, with the facts of observation still providing no support for any astrological claims. The epistemic status of astrology may be vanishingly small, but that is greater than the zero of phlogiston.

Given all that, well, it may not be nonsense, but it certainly isn't sense.
If people wish to believe that a child takes on the character of planets that are rising when they are born, this is at worst a harmless folk superstition like many other old wives’ tales. If it has a grain of truth then all the better.

Gillianren
2010-May-11, 04:38 AM
Don Quixote is a typical astrological crackpot. The BBC debate turns on whether scientists are justified in describing such crackpottery as rubbish. The mainstream assumption is that all astrologers are as crazy as Don Quixote. However, this ignores evidence that some astrologers show evidence of being sane and intelligent. Cervantes has a sort of admiration for his crazy chevalier, dubbing him the polestar of knight errancy, giving the suggestion that the surface errors may hide a deeper wisdom.

Fondness, yes. Admiration, not as much as you seem to think.


It is a very good point Gillian, and one that continues to consign astrology to rubbish status. Where your phlogiston analogy breaks down though, is that subsequent science proved that the phlogiston theory was wrong, and such decisive refutation has not occurred for astrology. Science has found that many or most astrological claims are false, but has not replaced the hypothesis of a causal agency with something better, as phlogiston was replaced by oxygen. Instead, astronomy has corralled astrology into a tighter net, with the facts of observation still providing no support for any astrological claims. The epistemic status of astrology may be vanishingly small, but that is greater than the zero of phlogiston.

Where your science breaks down is the idea that it is the responsibility of anyone to prove astrology wrong.


If people wish to believe that a child takes on the character of planets that are rising when they are born, this is at worst a harmless folk superstition like many other old wives’ tales. If it has a grain of truth then all the better.

It hasn't been shown to have a grain of truth. Which makes it worrisome that people in high positions of various governments have based decisions on astrology. Not exactly harmless, that.

Paul Beardsley
2010-May-11, 05:52 AM
Where your science breaks down is the idea that it is the responsibility of anyone to prove astrology wrong.
Right. A better explanation than phlogiston was required, because fire clearly exists. But the effects that astrology supposedly "accounts" for do not exist, and so nothing "better" is needed.


It hasn't been shown to have a grain of truth. Which makes it worrisome that people in high positions of various governments have based decisions on astrology. Not exactly harmless, that.

Agreed. I really do not accept that this "vanishingly small" statistical evidence is valid.

Strange
2010-May-11, 08:50 AM
Science has found that many or most astrological claims are false, but has not replaced the hypothesis of a causal agency with something better, as phlogiston was replaced by oxygen. Instead, astronomy has corralled astrology into a tighter net, with the facts of observation still providing no support for any astrological claims. The epistemic status of astrology may be vanishingly small, but that is greater than the zero of phlogiston.

I can't believe I am reading this.

has not replaced the hypothesis of a causal agency with something better

What causal agency? I'm not aware that astrologists has ever suggested what the cause of their magic might be. Apart from some mysterious undetectable "energy" or "vibrations" - woooooooo.

What is it causing? No effect has ever been shown.

The hypothesis has been replaced with something far better: nothing. This has equally good predictive power and fits with Occam's law.

with the facts of observation still providing no support for any astrological claims.

Quite. It has no support. I don't understand why you keep trying to defend it.

The epistemic status of astrology may be vanishingly small, but that is greater than the zero of phlogiston

The value and basis of astrologism has been demonstrated to be zero. Using weasel words like "vanishingly small" doesn't change that.

ETA: Furthermore, until further data invalidated it, phlogiston was a valid theory which matched observation. The same is not true, and has never been true, of astrologism.

Robert Tulip
2010-May-12, 11:04 PM
I can't believe I am reading this.

has not replaced the hypothesis of a causal agency with something better

What causal agency? I'm not aware that astrologists has ever suggested what the cause of their magic might be. Apart from some mysterious undetectable "energy" or "vibrations" - woooooooo.

A difference between astrology and disproved scientific theories such as phlogiston is that astrology continues to be believed by millions of people, including scientists who suspect there may be something in it. The solar system is a single complex system in which DNA has evolved over billions of years. The double helix shape of DNA has a fractal analogy with the helical space-time shape of the solar system as the planets orbit the barycentre. It seems plausible to astrological believers that the human genome is sensitive to the complex system in which it evolved, that all the rhythms of the cosmic cycle are the limit of our extended phenotype. This sensitivity is obviously extremely weak, given the lack of statistical corroboration, but the speculative errors of popular astrology do not prove that such a sensitivity to initial conditions is absent from life.


What is it causing? No effect has ever been shown.

The hypothesis has been replaced with something far better: nothing. This has equally good predictive power and fits with Occam's law.

The question is whether personality is shaped by initial conditions. It appears this ‘shaping’ is undetectable by science to date, but the possible answers are that it does not exist or that studies have not been adequately designed.


with the facts of observation still providing no support for any astrological claims.

Quite. It has no support. I don't understand why you keep trying to defend it.

It is a very interesting scientific question why millions would believe claims that are false. My view is that further statistical analysis, for example data mining of large epidemiological datasets of birth and death dates, could find observational support linking planetary positions with terrestrial cycles and human conditions.


The epistemic status of astrology may be vanishingly small, but that is greater than the zero of phlogiston

The value and basis of astrologism has been demonstrated to be zero. Using weasel words like "vanishingly small" doesn't change that.

ETA: Furthermore, until further data invalidated it, phlogiston was a valid theory which matched observation. The same is not true, and has never been true, of astrologism.
The ‘value and basis’ may seem to be zero for astronomy, but it presents a system of psychology that millions of people find useful, for example in analysis of personal planetary transits. Analysis of planetary cycles against mythic archetypes has an intrinsic value for many people, even though the connection between these symbolic ideas and the lessons drawn from them remains pure speculation.

Van Rijn
2010-May-12, 11:40 PM
A difference between astrology and disproved scientific theories such as phlogiston is that astrology continues to be believed by millions of people, including scientists who suspect there may be something in it.


Yes, one was treated as a scientific argument, and ultimately lost in the court of science. The other is just a popular but scientifically unsupported belief.

Delvo
2010-May-13, 12:33 AM
It appears this ‘shaping’ is undetectable by science to date, but the possible answers are that it does not exist or that studies have not been adequately designed.If it's so hard to find, then how did the first, original astrologers come up with it?


My view is that further statistical analysis... could find observational support linking planetary positions with terrestrial cycles and human conditions.Without having seen any such thing yet, what reason is there to expect that it's there to find?

Gillianren
2010-May-13, 01:04 AM
Yes, one was treated as a scientific argument, and ultimately lost in the court of science. The other is just a popular but scientifically unsupported belief.

And I mean, people still believe in creationism, too, and we don't pay any attention to them except when they threaten the teaching of science, either.

Robert Tulip
2010-May-13, 02:45 AM
If it's so hard to find, then how did the first, original astrologers come up with it?Astrology was widely believed in the ancient world on the basis of the axiom of the perennial philosophy 'as above so below'. Stephen Jay Gould has said that this axiom applies in biology where macrocosms are fractals of microcosms. The idea is that everything that happens at a moment in time partakes of a common nature of that moment, so that events on earth (the microcosm) reflect events in the heavens (the macrocosm).
Without having seen any such thing yet, what reason is there to expect that it's there to find?Complex systems are sensitive to initial conditions, as in the Lorenz Butterfly Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect) seen in the evolution of chaos. If a human birth can be compared to the exposure of a photographic film to the light, fixing a unique character, then the person shares the nature of the moment of their birth, as the set of 'initial conditions' in which the person became a separate entity.

The hypothesis of astrology is that planetary positions can be analysed to give insight into the unique nature of each moment by looking for reflection in earthly circumstances of cycles of harmonic patterns of the solar system. Of course, all efforts to validate this hypothesis have drawn a blank, with limited exceptions such as Gauquelin's contested results.

The 'reason to expect that it's there to find' is that previous tests seem to have assumed a much stronger signal than in fact obtains, and that more sensitive testing methods may vindicate the premise of the perennial philosophy.

Gillianren
2010-May-13, 03:01 AM
The 'reason to expect that it's there to find' is that previous tests seem to have assumed a much stronger signal than in fact obtains, and that more sensitive testing methods may vindicate the premise of the perennial philosophy.

They didn't find the aether, either.

Paul Beardsley
2010-May-13, 05:35 AM
If it's so hard to find, then how did the first, original astrologers come up with it?

Yes, this is the killer question. Robert has quoted it and written some words after the quote (including an appeal to authority) but he has not in any sense answered it.

In short, Game Over.

Strange
2010-May-13, 10:02 AM
The double helix shape of DNA has a fractal analogy with the helical space-time shape of the solar system as the planets orbit the barycentre.

Er, yeah man ... and colorless green sheep sleep furiously.


It is a very interesting scientific question why millions would believe claims that are false.

That is an interesting question. But I think the answer is to be found in psychology rather than trying to justify the baseless beliefs.


My view is that further statistical analysis, for example data mining of large epidemiological datasets of birth and death dates, could find observational support linking planetary positions with terrestrial cycles and human conditions.

Why? Just because lots of people believe in it, it must be true? Should we do research into why green is unlucky, perpetual motion, ponzi schemes and every other irrational belief? OK, that is slightly unfair. Some traditional systems have been looked at and found to have something real underlying them (many herbal remedies are based on genuine medicinal properties of plants) but a large number of others have been found to be hollow beliefs with no basis: astrologism, homeopathy, the tooth fairy, etc. At some point, you have to stop searching for something that isn't there and accept the world as it is.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-13, 11:16 AM
OK, that is slightly unfair. Some traditional systems have been looked at and found to have something real underlying them (many herbal remedies are based on genuine medicinal properties of plants) but a large number of others have been found to be hollow beliefs with no basis: astrologism, homeopathy, the tooth fairy, etc. At some point, you have to stop searching for something that isn't there and accept the world as it is.
We tested traditional treatments and the stuff that works became medicine and went on to learn new things.
We tested traditional ideas about the lights in the sky and the stuff that works became astronomy and went on to learn new things.

At some point people should stop giving money to scam artists who are using the old bits that don't have any relationship to how the world actually is.

Dara O'Briain expresses it very well in this YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIaV8swc-fo) clip. Note, slightly NSW language.

NEOWatcher
2010-May-13, 05:03 PM
...The idea is that everything that happens at a moment in time partakes of a common nature of that moment,...
I agree so far, but:

...so that events on earth (the microcosm) reflect events in the heavens (the macrocosm).
Astrology limits that macrocosm to be the heavens, and the microcosm as the person. What about all that stuff in between?
There are so many environmental factors that can be considered in a birth that they completely overwhelm the heavens. For instance, the lighting conditions, the temperature, the noise level, and probably more that I can't think of at the moment.
I would be open to astrology having some part in the big picture, but to say that it is even a noticeable part is not something I'm willing to swallow.

Gillianren
2010-May-13, 05:05 PM
We tested traditional treatments and the stuff that works became medicine and went on to learn new things.

My example tends to be St. John's wort. It was an alternative medicine. Then, they ran proper scientific studies on it, and it turned out to have medical efficacy. Now, it is not an alternative medicine; it's just medicine.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-13, 11:38 PM
The 'reason to expect that it's there to find' is that previous tests seem to have assumed a much stronger signal than in fact obtains, and that more sensitive testing methods may vindicate the premise of the perennial philosophy.
You're assuming that there is a signal, based on nothing but wishful thinking and since you're willing to allow it to be arbitrarily small to go below any limits to detection there's no way to show that it's useless to talk about. This is ATM thinking at it's most basic, most useless and most ridiculous. There's basically no argument that can turn you from this blind faith that there is something, because you've clearly already decided that it's there.

The bit I find dangerous isn't that you keep going for this fairytale, you're welcome to dance with the butterflies if that floats your boat; it's that there are people out there using that kind of reasoning to take in untold millions of dollars on their scams and there are people with nuclear weapons listening to these people.

HenrikOlsen
2010-May-13, 11:55 PM
Complex systems are sensitive to initial conditions, as in the Lorenz Butterfly Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect) seen in the evolution of chaos. If a human birth can be compared to the exposure of a photographic film to the light, fixing a unique character, then the person shares the nature of the moment of their birth, as the set of 'initial conditions' in which the person became a separate entity.
Sensitive to initial conditions mean that if you get the measurement of the initial conditions even the slightest bit wrong, then it's impossible to predict anything of future states.

The hypothesis of astrology is that planetary positions can be analysed to give insight into the unique nature of each moment by looking for reflection in earthly circumstances of cycles of harmonic patterns of the solar system. Of course, all efforts to validate this hypothesis have drawn a blank, with limited exceptions such as Gauquelin's contested results.
By claiming chaos theory is relevant to astrology, you have robbed it of any possible predictive powers and of any possible validation by statistical means, since whichever data are hypothetically relevant can't be determined to any sort of precision.

Gauquelin is not an exception to anything, he's an unfortunate example of what happens when people delude themselves.

Strange
2010-May-14, 02:39 PM
The 'reason to expect that it's there to find' is that previous tests seem to have assumed a much stronger signal than in fact obtains, and that more sensitive testing methods may vindicate the premise of the perennial philosophy.

You mean the fact that we haven't been able to detect it so far is evidence that it exists?